He Said, “Please.”

Here’s another family story. When I was six or seven years old I went to school with a pocket watch I’d been given. I don’t know if it was a birthday, Christmas, or just because you’re you and I want to give you this watch present, but I do know it went to school with me. One other thing I know is it didn’t return home. Ever. Instead, it went home with another boy. Before you get the wrong idea, let me assure you there was no coercion involved. No bullying whatsoever. Really, the circumstances of this incident provide more questions that answers. Why did it end up with another boy? Why didn’t some responsible adult intervene and make sure I got it back? Why don’t I remember getting in trouble? I remember being in quite a bit of hot water over almost burning down our barn (but that’s a story for another day). A lot of things that happen in our young lives don’t age very well. That is, if we retain anything at all, it’s only the highlights. All I remember about the watch story is when I got home from school it was discovered I no longer had my watch. When asked why, I said I’d given it to another boy (his name has been lost within the sands of history). Next question, “Why did you give it to him?” My reply? “He said, ‘please.'” That’s right, I gave it to him because he said, “please.” In my little head it was like, please pass the salt, or please scoot to the right because I can’t see the pastor. I’d been taught that please was the magic word, and I’d bought it. Entirely.

As a believer, haven’t there been times when you’ve wished you could use the magic word with God? Hey God, I did say please. Right? And didn’t you say that whatever we ask in your name, you would do it? I was listening to a Francis Chan sermon the other day. He made the point that if God said yes to everything he and his young friends asked back in the day, there would be a lot of guys married to Farrah Fawcett. There’s a country song titled, “Unanswered Prayers.” Thing is, they’re all answered. Sometimes the answer is, yes. Sometimes the answer is, no. Sometimes the answer is, not yet. Then again, sometimes the answer is, you couldn’t afford the price of her hair stylist.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples…”
John 15:5-8 ESV

I think a lot of Christians like to highlight the ask whatever you wish part and somehow pass over what happens to those who claim to follow Him (or abide) and those who don’t. To our real peril we ignore the tremendous downside to allowing ourselves to become a dried up useless branch. Ask yourself, “Is my Father glorified in this?” God knows you, He knows what you need and He also knows how you can best be used. Seeking His will is a worthy lifetime pursuit that isn’t easy, but you probably already know the best work never is, right?

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33 ESV

Time is enough
when it’s our Father’s,
but never enough
when it’s only ours.
God best knows
the right time for planting
as He knows for harvest
and flower.

© Joel Tipple 10/26/2019

Shelter in Place

Have you ever been forced to live on the street or in your car? I haven’t, but whenever I see someone I think may not have a home, I wonder how I would feel if I was in their place. It’s easier to imagine you’re strong when you have enough to eat and a safe place to be. Thank God for places like the Eureka Rescue Mission, where people, who, because of circumstances, poor decisions, or a combination of both, find themselves homeless, are able to take advantage of a safe, temporary shelter, where they are able to eat, get warm, and obtain Godly direction. Though you may have worked hard to be able to afford to own or rent a home, the realization that your situation could change in a heartbeat should cause you to reflect and be thankful for what you have and empathize with those who are not in your situation.

Webster’s Free Online Dictionary defines “permanent” as: continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change and “shelter” as: something that covers or affords protection. So, a permanent shelter is something durable (enduring) that provides cover or protection.

When disaster strikes an area, public safety officials sometimes give advisories or orders to the population within that area to “shelter in place.” That is, finding a safe location indoors and staying there until you are given an “all clear” or told to evacuate. This may also be called for during a time when violence or the threat of violence is present.

There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
Isaiah 4:6 ESV

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2 ESV

We use weather references a lot when we talk about how our lives are going. Christians especially talk about storms when discussing the trying times we all go through. During those times of great upheaval in our lives it’s critical we know how to shelter in place spiritually. Our shelter then is our experience of knowing God through prayer, scripture, and teaching. If we have built a strong foundation by seeking God when the sun is shining, we will have a safe and reliable place to go when it isn’t. More than that, each of us needs to carry a spiritual shelter that can provide refuge and protection for those around us. For those who follow Jesus we need Godly wisdom and knowledge to best help them with their walk. For non-Christians we need to pray for opportunities to lead them to the Lord.

God, you’ve always been home when I needed shelter. You also sheltered me when I didn’t know how vulnerable I was. Help me to never take for granted the refuge of the shelter I know and the shelter that is there for me wherever I am.

© Joel Tipple 10/19/2019

Who Cares?

The first thing I should have done was check to see if she was alright. That was what I should have done. I’d like to point out it came quickly on the heels of what I actually did. So, there’s that.

Sometime in 1981 I was in the 2nd year of my time at Humboldt State University. Lori and I were married in 1980, and we took up residence in a $210 a month apartment immediately adjacent to school. One afternoon we were walking across the steps of the university library. I’ve since looked at a picture of the pillars in front of the building, and I’m not sure how I managed it, but somehow I led my young wife directly into one of those pillars, and she went down. Now, I have to say that for as long as I’ve known Lori, I’ve taken on an extra degree of responsibility when the two of us walk together. This is due to the fact that her depth perception is not excellent, and things like stairs can present a challenge. When she goes someplace new she’ll count steps up and down to help her the next time she goes there. Lori is demonstrably above average in nearly every other way, but God has chosen to make her less than perfect in this. I believe the divine purpose is to give other people hope. Okay, I jest, and you might say my wife being on the ground was no laughing matter, except it was a very funny moment. What would forever cement this moment in our memory was my immediate reaction. I quickly looked around to see who might have witnessed our two-Stooge-Three-Stooges-performance. Then, I began to assess the extent of any injuries Lori might have incurred. And she noticed the order of my priorities. Fortunately, our laughter helped to both rescue me from my inappropriate immediate response and cement this as one of those family memories we would laugh about for years.

I believe our God has a sense of humor, and it’s one of those personal attributes we should take the time to encourage in each other. Goodness knows there is enough stress in each day that we should take advantage of every Godly remedy we have at our disposal. A genuine smile is one of the greatest gifts we can give to both folks we know and those we don’t. Finding ways to encourage laughter in each other can help bring unity and healing. Who cares? It’s clear God does. If God cares for us, we must find every way we can to humble ourselves and bring joy and laughter to help lighten the loads we all invariably carry.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Luke 6:21

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:25-26 NIV

Worry and care we accumulate,
burdens we weren’t meant to carry.
Sadness upon sadness
we add through the years
when to it
no one asked us to marry.
Grief has its place
and shapes us like clay,
but God purposed us
for more than one expression.
We owe to lift our brothers and sisters up
to all God’s grand dimension.

© Joel Tipple 10/12/2019

Dashboard Crisis

I’ve a confession to make. It’s embarrassing, but here goes… First, are you familiar with the game of peek-a-boo? It’s a little exercise we all play with babies to teach object permanence. The fun comes when you hide something like your face or a toy from a baby and then quickly uncover it. They’re surprised and delighted when they learn things aren’t gone forever just because they are out of view. Have you ever considered that we all continue this game with ourselves many many years later? Long after our brains have supposedly developed to a much higher level, we choose to hide things from ourselves we would rather not see. And so, on to my confession. We’re all familiar with the warning lights on the dashboards of our vehicles. Lots of other electronic devices have similar lights and sounds to get our attention. They tell us when it’s time to deal with various electronic or mechanical issues that arise from time to time. Sometimes the warnings are simple reminders to perform some sort of regular maintenance. If we ignore some warnings, or put off dealing with an issue for too long, a relatively easy and cheap fix can graduate all the way to hard and expensive.

Confession? Oh yeah, well, like I said, it’s embarrassing. I’d like to think I rely primarily on common sense. But, if you’re like me you’re probably a little selective in your use of that particular attribute. You may think your portion of brain power and experience is enough to see you through just about anything. But, whether you’re willing to admit it or not, there’s most likely some stuff you would just rather not look at. Now, to use myself as exhibit A, this one time I abandoned my good sense by choosing to ignore a light on my car’s dashboard. Hey, in my defense, I’d already spent a bunch of money dealing with the various issues it could be. However, the light refused to stay out for long, and so, since I was still able to go down the road, I eventually gave up and did something that makes me embarrassed to think about it, even though years have passed. What did I do? I took a little piece of electrical tape and covered up the light.
Problem solved.
Out of sight, out of mind.
What light?

Now that was silly, right? I guess one of the reasons we can chuckle is that we’ve either known or heard of someone who has actually covered up a warning light. We hope things turn out all right in those instances and I don’t recall being stranded on the side of the road due to my own foolishness. But what about when the problems we cover up start out small and get bigger? What about when the signs we ignore relate to bigger issues regarding ourselves or others? When God reveals to us large or small issues, we need to act on them. If we need help, it’s up to us to ask for it. Far too often we give up on ourselves because we think our challenges are too great. It’s not cliche to say nothing is too big for God. One thing I know for sure… He will surprise you.

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.
Mark 4:24 ESV

Increase what I can see,
so I can see need.
Increase what I can hear,
so I can hear your voice.
Increase what I can feel,
so I never grow callus.
Increase my sense of smell,
so I know your Spirit’s fragrance.
Increase my sense of taste
so I know good food for me.
Increase my awareness,
so your harvest will be increased.

© Joel Tipple 10/5/2019