The meek shall inherit

Photo: Dogs have masters; cats have staff.

This morning I read in Romans about how God used Pharoah. It says God actually raised Pharoah up to that position for a reason. I wonder if God allowed a megalomaniac to rise to a position of power because it was time for a public show-down with a human who actually believed he was in charge. God told Moses what to do and what to say, then added, “Oh, by the way, Pharoah won’t listen.” Moe probably felt like middle management.

Pharoah refused to change because he refused to learn. He arrived at the point of contact with Moses and Aaron in a state of being incapable of changing his mind.

It just so happens this cat in the photo is named Ramses, after a Pharoah of Egypt. He is an exceptional cat because he does play fetch — with an alarmingly realistic replica of a dead mouse — but he deigns to participate in this exchange with us mere humans on his own terms and in accordance to his mood swings only. He performs for no man.

His demeanor reminds me of people who consider themselves to be experts in all fields which matter. If they are not experts in a particular field, it is because that area, in their opinion, is not of importance.

Like most cats, Ramses is not known for his eagerness to learn new tricks. (Can you tell I’m a dog person –although I admit a certain admiration for his regal bearing and alluring appearance.)

The Bengal breed is beautiful. Their markings remind us they are not that far removed from the wild. They are gorgeous animals and tend to be more aloof than the typical house cat, but like most cats they are not compliant. They are not meek. Woe betide if breakfast is late.

I don’t think , when meekness is mentioned as a positive character trait in the Bible, that it refers to a doormat, a milk toast, or a namby pamby, wishy washy victim. I think it refers to a person who humbly admits he or she is not an expert, but is confidant in her or his potential and knows she or he is capable of learning.

I love this description of meekness. A meek person knows how to lose nobly at chess. He does not distract his opponent and tip the board or demand best of three or twenty-three or a hundred twenty-three grudge matches. When confronted with a check he lays down his queen and says, “You are better than I am, but I can learn. Teach me.”

Don’t mistake meekness for mildness or timidity. True meekness is unswervingly honest, ferociously courageous and undauntedly thorough. Meek people are never resigned to hopeless stagnation in mental, emotional or spiritual slavery. They realize that gain comes through the willingness to let go of  lies which have remained unexamined for too long.

A lack of meekness was the central weakness in Pharoah’s character. He was the victim of an attitude that was not teach-able.  It was an arrogant attitude that mistook stubbornness for perseverance. I believe the attitude developed as his own original choice, but after it became entrenched, God chose to exploit it, and hardened his heart further. Only God knows at what point some people’s rebellion solidifies into unmovable arrogance. Not my job. Not going there.

My job is to remain soft-hearted, malleable, willing to admit ignorance, and to be confidant that I am capable of learning — meek. My job is to be honest about my weakness and co-operate in the mind renewing process.

But his reply has been, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.” Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him. 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10

Fix my eyes

Photo: the upward road

Today as I awake to Pentecost Sunday I feel like blind Bartimaeus.

I sit by the roadside.

I’ve tripped again.

I cry out, “Jesus, son of David have mercy on me!”

I feel like I am an annoyance and embarrassment to everyone around me,

but I don’t care.

Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!

Master, this is what I want:

I want to see You.

I see all the needy people around me.

I see my inadequacies.

I see my sin.

How can I help anyone on this journey when I keep falling down myself?

Master, fix my eyes that I might fix my eyes on You!

Surrounded then as we are by these serried ranks of witnesses, let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith. Hebrews 12:1

The Listener

Photo:  Railroad tracks near Bummer’s Flats

I had tea with a friend this morning who told me this story. She and her husband were sitting on their lawn chairs enjoying the beauty of a warm evening last week when her husband had an urge to pray for the safety of the visitors coming to the area in the next few days. So he did. She asked him why he did that; he’s never prayed for tourists before. (Locals are more likely to complain about being stuck behind stubble-jumpers hauling enormous trailers on our winding mountain roads. The poor folk seem to be afraid of any drop-off deeper than their gum boots.) He shrugged and said he didn’t know. He just felt he should. Then they went on enjoying the beautiful quiet together.

The next day their friend, who is a train engineer, was bringing a train through the valley. A young man from Alberta had apparently become so drunk he sat down on the train tracks, then fell asleep right there. The engineer immediately tried to stop the train when he saw him and realized it was a person, but of course could not do it in time. When it did finally stop he and another rail road employee reluctantly climbed down from the engine to go look for body parts. What they found absolutely astonished them. The man was alive and still sleeping. 26 loaded cars had passed over him. When they called to him he woke up! 26 freight cars with screeching brakes passed over him and didn’t wake him up -which is just as well. If they had and he had moved his head or a limb even slightly they would have been chopped off, but he was totally unharmed.

Wow. Wow. Wow. God is good. Pray for this guy. I do believe God preserved him for a reason. Apparently he survived another accident in the same place last year.

We also praise God for the conductor who is due to retire in a few weeks and has never had an accident. God preserved him and his assistant as well.

And pay attention to those urges to pray.

Kindness and severity

Photo: Kananaskis country

Behold the kindness and severity of God. Romans 11:22

This phrase doesn’t sound like praise, but I mean it to be.

A person cannot truly appreciate this mountainous country until they have a healthy respect for it. This is no tame amusement park to be entered without consideration; life & death consequences await one who strays from the trails without proper equipment and understanding of the back country. But for one familiar with it’s ways, hiking here is a joyful walk in overwhelming beauty.

So it is with our relationship with God. Awesome, kind, severe, merciful, loving, life-altering beauty so much greater than my ability to comprehend.

His creation, His truth, His rules.

As my husband says, He’s a good listener, but He doesn’t take my advice well – for which I praise Him.

Because of Your great glory

Stepping on the brakes

Photo: Manitoba highway

While on a recent road trip my husband and I were discussing how discernment should operate in an atmosphere of love and grace. Just then a car pulled out in front of us as it turned left onto the highway. My husband had to hit the brakes to avoid a collision. He let out a heart-felt, “Whew! Lord, help that guy!!”

I felt the Lord say, “Like that.”

As I thought about it, it came to me that our vehicle had the right of way. We were in the right. The vehicle that pulled out ahead of us was clearly in the wrong and it was his responsibility to yield. Had we continued going the speed we were going, and had there been a collision the other driver would have been charged –but we both would have been wounded -probably very seriously.

I realized the Lord is teaching me that in discerning wrong teaching or a wrong spirit we have the option of restraining ourselves, even if we are perfectly right, to makes allowances for a brother or sister’s error in judgment.

I think this person driving the other vehicle just made a bad judgment call. Perhaps they were inexperienced, or tired, or just plain inconsiderate; perhaps they had an emergency we knew nothing about. Now had it been obvious that they were drunk and careening about the road in a grossly unsafe fashion, obviously being a threat to their own or others safety, we would have gotten their license number and called the police. Had the driver been someone under our authority, one of our kids or a student we were teaching to drive, we would have made a u-turn and followed them until we could have pulled them over, found out what on earth they were thinking (or not) and given them a kind but honest talking-to, or even taken their keys if the situation called for it. Had the driver been a close friend we may have done the same, but perhaps would have appealed to them to be more careful.

Sometimes, in the church Body, we are called to do that, but not often. Sometimes we need to warn others, but most of the time we need to apply the brakes, make concessions, let them by, pray for them and trust Holy Spirit to police the roads. He’s the one who brings conviction. Neither party would gain anything by ramming them to teach them a lesson. In fact, both would lose and the journey would be greatly hindered.

It’s not as if no one has ever had to apply the brakes for me. As much as it hurts I’d rather have a friend come along side, pull me over, speak kindly and honestly to me, and bring the consequences of my choices to my attention, than to read about “some people” on Facebook or read a rant about my heretical beliefs on a blog, or overhear “concerns” in a hallway. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6

Today I read, “…pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord from pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2: 22b-26.

There are, indeed, some reckless, inconsiderate, inexperienced people with too much power out there on the road. Be alert. Be ready to step on the brakes. Drive carefully. Pray.