Thoughts for the Week

Archive for June, 2012

Forgotten, Little Blessings

The other day, I plopped down into my bean bag to read a book. But I realized I had forgotten something at my desk. I struggled to get up, which proved difficult since the bean bag was so squishy. I wished there was someone in the room to give me a hand.

In that moment, as I sometimes do, I talked to God. I joked. “Too bad You’re not right here with me to help me stand up.” Then I heard a snappy reply. It was more a feeling than a thought, but it went something like “Help you up? Who gave you your legs to stand up, and the nerves that send the signal, and the muscles that work? Yeah…that was me. I’m helping you more than you know.” I couldn’t help but laugh.

While God doesn’t always answer us like that, it’s true that He’s given us so much in so many ways that we take for granted. Think about some of the little things He has given us: breathable air, delicious food, explosive colors, warm sunsets, fresh cookies, and the familiar love of friends.

Paul hinted at these simple blessings in Romans. “Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (1:20, NLT). Even though we forget about God’s little gifts, they’re still there. His little, forgotten blessings to us still keep coming. And when we notice them, we see his “invisible qualities” of love to us.

This week, keep your eyes open and try to pick a simple blessing each day to thank God for.

Copyright by Molly Anderson 2012. Use by permission only.

The Farmer of Lystra

Acts 14:8-20

I wished they would leave.

I handed my customer a sack of barley as I eyed the newcomers. They stood in the main square, trying to talk to passersbys. I had heard about these two trouble-makers: Paul and Barnabas. A traveling friend of mine said they were spreading news about this new god, and wherever they went, trouble followed.

I was a farmer from out of town and came in to sell my produce now and then. Now, I didn’t follow Zeus or the other gods. I couldn’t respect the priests. They always tried to build their social standing at the expense of others. I continued to eye the two men.

I remember it clearly. I nearly choked on the juicy pomegranate seeds I was munching when Paul called out to a crippled man and he leapt up and began walking. The crowd instantly grew wild and began speaking in their native language.

“These men are gods in human form! The one who healed him is Zeus, and the other is Hermes!”

I recalled the legend when Zeus and Hermes had visited Lystra and Derbe before. According the tradition, when the gods came to visit the first time, no one welcomed them in except an old couple. The gods were so angry they killed everyone but the couple. The crowd was rushing around to get gifts for Paul and Barnabas, not wanting to repeat the mistake of their ancestors.

I felt my weathered cheeks grow hot. I crushed the remains of the pomegranate with my fist.

It was a lovely scam they had going. All Paul and his buddy had to do now was bask in the glow of sacrifices and worship. They could remain famous and showered with gifts as long as they stayed. They were just like the power-hungry priests.

But to my surprise, Paul discovered what they were saying and began running around and yelling. I could tell he was upset. I didn’t catch all that he said, but it was something like, “We’re only humans like you! Turn from these things and turn to the living God.”

I wondered if he was talking about that new god. According to my traveling friend, this god couldn’t die.

I stopped and thought a moment. Paul could have gained instant popularity with everyone, but that didn’t seem to be his goal. This new god must have been awfully important to him. I considered closing up my shop and walking over to listen.

As I sat and watched, a new group of people arrived. I knew they were Jews by their dress, and they seemed to know Paul and Barnabas. Imagine my surprise when they began yelling and pointing threats at the two men. I didn’t know this at the time, but these Jews had been hunting Paul. They were from Antioch and Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas had come from.

The crowd grew agitated and began to agree with the Jews. They believed if Paul and Barnabas weren’t gods, they were false prophets.

It became apparent the crowd that wanted to shower them with praises earlier now wanted to kill them.

I jumped to my feet when they grabbed Paul and threw him down. Before I could react, they grabbed nearby rocks and began to stone him. They held Barnabas back as he struggled. I didn’t know what to do.

It wasn’t long before Paul was still. The mob grabbed him and began to drag him out of town. They let Barnabas go, and he ran after them. I saw the previously crippled man on the side of the road, crying.

I grabbed a bag of assorted fruits and grains and discreetly followed the crowd. I wanted to see if Barnabas as all right. The crowd dumped Paul’s body outside of the city. Barnabas kneeled to mourn and pray. Other people were with him. I guessed they were Paul’s disciples from Antioch and Iconium. Perhaps they came to warn him. But now it was too late.

I slipped quietly beside Paul’s followers, offering the food and my condolences. Paul seemed like a good leader, and I admired his heart.

Much to our surprise, Paul coughed.

He sat up, and looked around, and with a little help from friends, stood on his own. I was dumbstruck. How could anyone survive a stoning like that?

I knew in that moment he served a god who was stronger than death, and I wanted to know more.

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord –Romans 5:21 (NLT).

Copyright by Molly Anderson 2012. Use by Permission Only.

The Unfaithful Bride (Part 2)

Hosea 3:1-3

Several years passed. Gomer had a good life, even gave Hosea some beautiful children. She never needed to go back to her past life. But she did.

She recalled the thrill of freedom that lasted a moment…then the reality of her choice began to seep in when she realized she had no way to support herself. She hated the idea of prostitution, but it seemed the only way. So with a numbed heart, she sold herself.

Gomer soon found herself at auction for women with her “talents.” She couldn’t find work and her last customer’s harsh words still rang in her ears. “You’re nothing but a washed-out, old harlot. You’re not worth my time!” Gomer stared at the men in the auction place. They all eyed the younger, attractive girls in line. She knew her chances of being bought were next to nothing.

She sat near the other girls, her face veiled in case any tears betrayed her. Her head began to ache as the auction began, and the beautiful girls were sold quickly to the rich men. But her heart froze when a new customer came in the back.

It’s him…

Hosea –her husband–was there. He searched the crowd until he spotted her. She dropped her head; terror and shame washed over her. She didn’t dare look up. She could feel his gaze, and knew why he was here.

He knew I was at the end of my rope and wants to see me squirm.

She looked to the other customers, hoping someone strong would buy her and protect her if Hosea tried to hurt her

I don’t blame him though. 

Her heart caught in her throat as she was called to the stand. The auctioneer hadn’t supplied any new clothing for her, so she looked rather pitiful in her threadbare, tattered clothing.

No one called out a price. No one wanted her.

She glanced over to Hosea. His arms were crossed and his eyes still fixed on her. He must be loving this, she thought. Hot tears threatened to spill onto her cheeks, but with the shred of dignity she had left, she held them back.

Someone in the back hollered. “We don’t want second-hand women!”

A lewder comment was given from a bleary-eyed man in the front. “C’mon, sweetheart. Show us the merchandise.” The group of men rippled with chuckles. “Let’s see what you got.”

Gomer tried to fight the nausea that rose to her throat. Her body had been loved by many men. But now, her conscience tore at her heart like a thousand knives. The group became louder, rowdier. Gomer feared less about being bought and more about her own safety. But a familiar voice rang out above the ruckus.

“I will buy her!”

All became quiet. It was Hosea. He walked toward the front, a bag of coins in his hand. “I will buy her.” He addressed the bookkeeper. “How much do you want for her?” The man named his price, and Gomer knew it was a very low one.

Before she knew what was happening, Hosea wrapped his outer robe around her and shuffled her into the street with his arms around her.

The tears that had been in hiding sprung to her eyes and escaped down her cheek. Hosea stopped for a moment to let her rest. “Darling, are you all right?”

The tenderness in her husband’s voice broke her resistance. She buried her tear-stained face into his chest and burst into sobs. Hosea only pulled her closer.

“Shh, it’s okay. We’re going home now.” They walked back. For the first time in months, Gomer felt safe.

* * *

But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there…I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion.  

Hosea 2:14, 19 (NLT)

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

The Unfaithful Bride (Part 1)

Hosea 1:1-3

The prophet reluctantly put one foot in front of the other as he trudged along the dusty city road. He could feel the stares of the neighbors boring into him. They could tell he was on a mission. And when Hosea the prophet was on a mission, it meant God had spoken to him. A few followed, hoping to hear what the Lord had said.

He surprised all of them when he stopped at the house of Diblaim. He lowered his head for a moment. The sweltering sun was beating down on his head.

Are you sure about this, Lord? I wish these people weren’t here. It’s only going to make it harder. But taking a deep breath, he knocked on the heavy, beat-up wooden door. A servant girl answered and Hosea spoke.

“Is the master of the house here? I have come to speak about his daughter, Gomer.” The girl disappeared and Hosea heard some muttering in the small crowd behind him.

“It’s good to see that promiscuous wretch get what she deserves.”

“I’m surprised it’s taken this long.”

“You think he’ll stone her?”

“I hope so.”

Diblaim came to the door. His beard was whiter than Hosea remembered and his eyes held bags around them. More wrinkles lined his face, and his entire body portrayed weariness.

“You’ve come about my daughter, prophet?”

“Yes, it won’t take long. Something needs to be done about Gomer.”

At the mention of her name, her father’s eyes became pools of sorrow, embarrassment, and defeat. Everyone knew Gomer was a loose young woman, and her activity had aged her father significantly. Hosea could see the father feared what the Lord had to say about Gomer.

The sun seemed to grow hotter. The prophet drew in a breath. “If it pleases you, I would like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

Diblaim’s jaw dropped and his eyes grew wide; the crowd behind Hosea burst into confused agitation. No one could believe what they just heard.

“M-Marry my daughter?”

Diblaim sputtered. He searched Hosea’s resolute expression, seeing no hints of dishonesty. “You truly are a man of God. I’ve been praying and hoping someone would come and set her straight.” He lowered his head in gratitude as tears filled his eyes. “Prophet, I cannot think of anyone who would honor me more than you. I am more than pleased to have you marry my daughter.”

Hosea could still hear the crowd milling around behind him. Some sounded intrigued, some were upset, but all were surprised.

“What on earth—?”

“Surely the Lord wouldn’t ask him to do this.”

“I think Hosea’s lost his mind!”

Hosea took another deep breath as he heard the anger and confusion behind him. God, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

Diblaim invited the prophet inside. But before he stepped through the doorway, he noticed a pair of deep, dark eyes staring at him through the window. She was tucked behind a thick curtain, and her expression was that of confusion, and perhaps disgust. Hosea realized he was looking at his bride. It took him all of his courage to smile at her.

But she didn’t smile back.

 *  *  *

I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’

Hosea 2:23 (NLT)

To be continued…

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

What’s Leading You?

The other day, I began my first “real” job. I was invited to intern at a publishing house and was eager to start. Outfit freshly pressed, and make-up professionally placed, I was ready to begin my first day.

However, there was a slight problem. The publishing house was over an hour away, and I had never been there. No problem, I had my handy-dandy GPS to get me there, right? Wrong.

As I drove by myself my GPS lost its signal. I tried to fight the panic that was slowing rising. I was already nervous about my internship, and technical difficulties certainly weren’t helping. I was afraid I would miss a turn, and get lost. I also didn’t want to be late on the first day. Bosses tend to frown on that.

Luckily, my GPS eventually found its signal. But apparently, my GPS has a cruel sense of humor, and a few minutes later, it lost the signal again.

For the majority of the trip, I was fighting anxiety while the signal continued its cycle of appearing and disappearing.

I remember wishing I had printed out directions so that I had something I could depend on without worrying about it slipping away so easily. Luckily, I made it to the office with plenty of time to spare.

In that moment, I was struck by the thought that I have a spiritual GPS that never loses its signal. It made me think of the much-loved Psalm 23.

“He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (vs. 2-3 NIV 2011).

God leads “along the right paths.” He won’t leave us in the lurch like a weak signal.

He’s always there, and He’s is leading us home.

2012 Copyright by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

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