Friday, August 27, 2010

Fresh Paint: A Cover Up

On my way home from town yesterday I noticed the road crew has repainted the center stripes on our nearby roads. It looks great. Sunflower yellow paint shone brightly in the late summer sun. It probably even reflects light at night, which will be helpful when dark rainy days hit. The only problem is they didn’t fix the road.

The intersection between the highway or town, and our neighborhood, has gotten so bad you have to slow to five miles an hour and pick your way through the potholes. Even then, it’s a bumpy ride. They say there’s no money in the county budget for road repair. Even so, I hoped they might resurface this main intersection before summer’s end. But nope, we got a fresh clean paint job instead.

Kind of reminds me of what Jesus said about the Pharisees: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:27-28, NIV).

They were dedicated to implementing the law, but their hearts were not dedicated to God. Jesus told his disciples to follow the law they taught but not their example, because, "Everything they do is done for men to see” (verse 5). They were not the spiritual teachers they should have been.

It was tradition in March, after heavy winter rains, to whitewash the tombs so no one (especially priests) would inadvertently step on them on their way to the Temple. This contact with the dead would prevent them from participating in worship. It also tended to cover up the fact that there were dead bodies inside. Jesus said the Pharisees were just like these tombs – they looked good on the outside, but were dead inside.

I don’t want my life to be just a fresh coat of paint. I don’t want to be a road that looks good, but is full of ruts and inadequate patch jobs which slow people down on their way to find Jesus. I don’t want to be a pious teacher that tells others how to get to heaven, when my own heart is full of death and darkness. I don’t want to paint over the sin in my life, but confess it to Jesus and be made alive and whole through His forgiveness. Yes, I’m saved, but need to keep coming back for more of His grace and newness. And He gives it freely.

David had it right when he asked God to clean him from the inside out, “Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean, scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life… Don't look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health… God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don't throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! …Going through the motions doesn't please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you”(from Psalm 51:5-17, Message).

It’s not enough to look good on the outside; living in Christ has to come from the heart.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A few pictures from the trip (see following blog)

Rattlesnake, yum!
Kelly on the job

New Friends

Surprise for Rattle Snake Richard: Answered Prayer

Little did my husband, Kelly, know what God was up to when he left for Cerre Azul, Mexico with our church youth group. More than 50 kids went to erect buildings for a drug rehabilitation center there. Kelly led one group - 30 kids plus several adults, and Stuart led the other half. Of course it turned into a competition to see who could finish their building first.

As all mission trips are, it was an amazing experience – they made new friends, completed the structures, saw people give their lives to Christ. Twenty-one teens celebrated baptism in the cool waters at San Diego South beach. This not only impacted our people, but onlookers as well. One family approached and asked where they went. “We’re new to town and looking for a church. Any group that would do this in a public place as boldly as you have is where we want to be!” It was disappointing to tell them our church is more than a day’s drive north.

The trip had its difficulties as well. One of the buses broke down in Ashland, and half the group waited while a man from Eugene drove there with a replacement. They worked in the heat and were devoured by mosquitoes. They even survived a 6 foot rattlesnake hiding near the bathroom all week. They didn’t know about him until they left! On the way home met a power hungry guard at the border, Kelly’s tire went flat, and the trailer tire blew. Getting them fixed was a race against the clock. The GPS directions led to a retirement home (instead of Les Schwab). Twice, they tried to ask directions, first from a non-English speaking man, then a deaf mute. They finally made it to a Les Schwab with four minutes to spare and the shop took care of them in no time.

Kelly met Richard the first day at the Rehab Center during their lunch break. He noticed some guys digging a well and started joking around with them. Since Richard spoke English, he interpreted for Kelly and the others. From then on, every time they arrived at the work site, the first thing Kelly heard was Richard’s voice, “Kelleee!” It boosted Kelly’s popularity that he got to take the team’s leftovers to the men every day.

Richard eagerly waited to move into the Rehab center. He had lived a life of drugs, alcohol, and prison. He had come to the Rehab Center five months earlier and found Christ. He and the other men had moved out of the dorms so the team could stay there. Three were sleeping on the children’s playground with tarps around their quarters for privacy and “mosquito protection.” Four or five others camped in a truck bed on the ground, and others pulled together makeshift shelters.

Every day Richard brought Kelly gifts – a live rattlesnake in a bucket to show him and the others, which he cooked for them to eat. Kelly prizes the two snake skins and the rattle of a 10 year old snake Richard generously gave him. As he bestowed each gift, Richard said, “You’re my friend, Kelly, and I don’t want you to forget me.”

Kelly kept racking his brain to think what he could give Richard. There were no stores nearby where he could buy something. All his clothes were dirty, and the power tools wouldn’t do Richard any good. There was no electricity. Then God spoke to him, “Give him your shoes.”

“But, Lord, I just bought those; they’re brand new Nikes. Besides, what will I wear to our church services here and the Padre game on the way home?”

“You can wear your sandals or your work shoes. You have others,” God persisted.

Kelly argued again, “I’m sure they won’t fit him, Lord. He’s a small man and my shoes will be too big. Anyway, he’d be insulted to get my used shoes.”

The next day, everyone loaded up to go to the job site. Kelly put the bag of candy he had bought for Richard in his truck. Suddenly he found himself walking back to his room. What am I here for? he wondered. God said, “You’re here for your shoes.” So Kelly grabbed the shoes and threw them behind his seat.

Sure enough, as soon as they arrived Richard was there to greet them. After their hellos, Kelly pulled out the bag of candy and handed it to Richard, saying, “I have something for you so you won’t forget me. Don’t give it away to everyone else.” Richard grinned and nodded. Then Kelly looked down at Richard’s feet. His tennis shoes were ripped down both sides held together only by the laces. He put his foot next to Richard’s and asked, “What size shoe do you wear?”

“Eight and a half.”

“Could you wear a nine?” Kelly asked.


Kelly brought out the brand new Nikes and said, “I have something else for you,” as he handed them to Richard.

Richard stood with an odd look on his face. Kelly asked, “Are you alright? Have I offended you?”

“No!” Richard assured him. “This is an answer to my prayer this morning. Two days ago a man came to camp and he didn’t have any shoes. I had two pair, these,” he said looking at the shreds tenaciously clinging to his feet, “and my good shoes. So I gave him my good shoes.

Kelly listened, humbled by Richard’s generosity. It reminded him of the widow Jesus praised. She gave all she had in the offering, while the rich man gave out of his wealth. Kelly knew which one he represented in the story.

Richard continued, “This morning I prayed, ‘Lord, you know I gave away my other shoes and I have no job to buy new ones. These aren’t going to last much longer. You’re going to have to provide.” Then he looked up at Kelly, “and He’s already answered my prayer!”

Kelly told me this story over the phone and he told the kids and adults in his group. He came home and told our children and friends at home. And, even though he was terrified, he agreed to tell his story at the men’s prayer breakfast, and our church. Over and over we marvel at the way God works. He was there when Kelly bought the shoes that would be perfect for Richard’s needs. He prompted Kelly to pack them because “they breathed better than his leather shoes.” And God brought these two men together in friendship and a mutual love for Christ.

Kelly says, “You can’t tell me there isn’t a God! He had it all figured out before I left home. He blessed Richard for giving when he has so little himself. And I got to see how God’s answered Richard’s prayer. We serve an amazing God.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

Play What You Know: Witnessing

Elaine caught me just as I was headed for a walk in the sunshine (a rare moment in Tillamook this summer). “Hey, I just wanted to give you your free ticket to the fair," she said, handing me an envelope. Thanks for your willingness to play for the gospel sing on Wednesday.”
My stomach tightened. Even though I’m only playing one song, I have been nervous about it. I’ve got to choose a song that will appeal to both churched and non-churched fair attendees. I don’t have the advantage of lyrics, since I play the clarinet. But I want to make a positive impression for Christ. I looked up at Elaine smiling at me from her SUV, “I haven’t decided what to play yet.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Just play something you know. Play something you love that speaks to you.”

“Good idea, that’s what I’ll do,” I agreed, and she drove off. The more I thought about it, the more I saw a spiritual application in her advice. It’s what God is constantly telling us in His Word.

Do the Song You Know

Whether I’m playing my clarinet, writing, or sharing Christ with someone, it’s important to start with what I know. I would never play a song in public that I hadn’t practiced in private. And a much repeated mantra at writer’s conferences is to "write what you know," either from personal experience or research.

As a Christian, it’s a pretty great idea to share what I do know about God with others (as opposed to know). I get to know Him by reading His love letter (the Bible), spending time with Him (prayer) and His kids (at church), and learning through experience that what He says is true (obedience). Apostle John put it this way, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us (1 John 1:3, italics added). John shared the song he knew, and it got people excited about God.

Do the Song You Love

Secondly, when I play for others, I try to pick songs I love. I have heard musicians sing and play music they obviously don’t care about. And it shows. It’s the same thing with writing. I write about subjects I am passionate about – relationships, God’s Word, and the little ‘aha’ moments of life when I discover a new delight.

When I talk about my relationship with God I want that same passion to come through. Do I sound bored or legalistic about my beliefs? Or do I sound like I am totally in love with Christ and excited about following Him?

Play a Song that Speaks to You

Even though I can’t sing and play my clarinet at the same time (now that might attract attention at the fair!), I still pick songs that have a message. And I hope that comes across in the way I play it – whether it is jaunty, wooing, sorrowful, or pure joy. I also love writing about what matters to me personally – new discoveries in the Word, hurts healed, lessons learned, and the fun of living. I have written ad copy, and made good money at it, but it was hard to get excited about extruders, Persian rugs, and expensive vacation homes, like I do about our great God!

I used to think that when I talked about God I had to use a certain method – the four spiritual laws, the Romans Road, the color book. Now I realize it works best to draw others in with what speaks to me. I love God because He has proven himself faithful in every situation of my life. My heart is clean, because Jesus took my punishment. Even though I face pain and trouble in this life, I know He is with me every step. Christ walks me when it is dark and gives me joy I can’t explain. He infuses me with power to do His will.

Maybe, like me, you have been nervous about how to share Christ, like I was about playing at the fair this week. You feel like the pressure is on. You may only get one chance and you don’t want to blow it. I want to encourage you with Elaine’s God-inspired wisdom. Say what you know about God (and if you don’t know much, I challenge you to read at least 90 seconds in your Bible every day. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll have to talk about!). Secondly, focus on what you love about the Lord and your life in Him. Finally, tell others what speaks to you from His Word and what He is teaching you day by day. That will make your song authentic, winsome, and honoring to the God we serve and adore.

I would love to hear from you. Take a moment to click on the word comment below and send me a message.
Beth Vice, 2010