Value Added

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The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10 ESV


It’s tough out there, isn’t it? File that under all time greatest understatements. If you aren’t suffering yourself, you surely know many who are. If we weren’t already convinced of our interconnections with everyone else on the planet, we should be now, as we’ve seen how a new virus can impact the world’s physical and economic health with little respect for national boundaries. If you care to involve yourself in the abundance of finger pointing and opinions found on the various news outlets and social media, you can take your pick. However, if you redirect your focus to what God’s word says about the human condition, you will see evidence of mercy, grace, healing, love, and redemption no matter what trouble we find ourselves in. The beauty and challenge of the Christian walk lies in transforming how we automatically react to events to how God would have us react. There is reason to hope for and expect change for the better, but I believe this hope must be founded on the results gained from submission to God and his will for our lives. If we allow God to have his way with us, I believe the value the Holy Spirit adds to us and draws out of us individually will bring a corporate change in our homes, communities, and world.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10
NLT

When God proved his love for us by sending his Son to be crucified and then raised from the dead, he settled for all time the question of how much value he places on each human life. Yours. Mine. Everyone we will ever meet. I am convinced God has placed particular value within you. But I am also sure that potential value will die, no one will ever see it, and the world will be the poorer if you do not do the work to seek it out, nurture it, and give it life. Each of us have certain gifts. They do not have to look like someone else’s gifts. Indeed, comparing ourselves to others is often the best way to derail our dreams because it’s much easier to see the end product of success than the muddy failure ridden process which often precedes it. You are not too young. You are not too old. You are not too anything to be exactly what God wants you to be. For God to use your gifts and abilities, no matter how significant or insignificant you may now believe them to be, you must see them through the lens of steadfast faith in his eternal design.

Give me eyes
to view myself as you do,
God,
embracing
the ways in which you work.
When has the sculpture
ever told the sculptor,
“No, not there”?
Help me mine, like gold
the value you know within me
Without your help
I would never see it there.


©Joel Tipple 5/17/2020







Communication

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This photograph of someone else’s hands on a manual typewriter keyboard reminds me of my college days. My fingers slipping off the keys, getting stuck in between as I wrote a paper. If I made a mistake I would slip a little piece of paper with white out on one side between the offending key and paper and press the key again. It was a relatively slow, pains taking process. The typewriters we used in Journalism classes were IBM Selectrics. These ubiquitous preferred electronic office typewriters were much faster and easy to use. Also, they didn’t eat fingers. The third keyboard in my student life was a VDT (video display terminal). We used these keyboards attached to small monitors to download stories onto diskettes. Fast forward 40 years or so and the writing I do now is different, but still influenced and benefited by the analytical/critical skills I learned in school. Who, what, where, when, why, and how still often find their way into my writing. Something a favorite professor of mine used to say was, “Our job is not to tell readers what to think, but rather to tell them what to think about.” That puts the onus on us as communicators. After determining the topic/story, whether speaking with someone face to face, or writing, I still believe the ability to get a message across is one of the most important skills any of us can cultivate. If we aren’t careful though, comprehension can be the drowning victim in a flood of communication. Unfortunately, the age of social networking encourages worship of the podium and “like” addiction. It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing applause from the same audience over and over again. Too often, the participants in platforms like Facebook foster an atmosphere of us vs. them instead of appealing to each other’s hearts and what we have in common.

Since today is Mother’s Day, you might be asking yourself what any of this talk about communication has to do with it. I’ve always believed the best communicators are great listeners first. Anyone with a loud voice can make a speech, but not everyone is a good listener, which is a hallmark of quality communicators. My mother was a wonderful listener. Looking back, I know she put as much or more effort into hearing than she did in being heard. This was one of her gifts to the world, and to the degree it is mine, she deserves much of the credit. As a Christian who believes the gospel message must take primacy in my life, I recognize that my words matter. I alone am responsible for them, both the ones I utter and the ones I choose to mull over and process.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
James 1:19 ESV

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV


“It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear.”
Italo Calvino

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
Truman Capote

Lord, inform what we say and write
to the exclusion of words
that tear down and divide.
Help us work the muscle
between our ears
to devote more attention to what we hear.
Focus our discernment
toward what you say
through your word
and our brothers and sisters today.
Then if reconciliation and peace
are worth being preached
like the song says, “let it begin with me.”


© Joel Tipple 5/10/2020






Mayday

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Mayday is the word used around the world to make a distress call via radio communications. The call signals a life-threatening emergency, usually on a ship or a plane, although it may be used in a variety of other situations. Mayday got its start as an international distress call in 1923 and was made official in 1948. It was the idea of Frederick Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. He came up with the idea for “mayday” because it sounded like the French word m’aider, roughly translated as “come help me” in English.

Yesterday was the first of May, otherwise known as May Day. Although the two are not related, it made me think about mayday, and the fact that many of us, even though we might not actually be in a ship or plane at the time, have wished we could pick up a radio, call “mayday” and be rescued.

We do our best to be strong and prepared for what life throws at us, but just as the pilot of a vessel must know when to ask for help, so must we. One factor I try to remember is that the help I receive is inevitably help for my family and friends as well. Pushing the shipping analogy a little further, the aphorism, “a rising tide lifts all boats” applies here. If we seek God, and seek his help early and often in our lives, those whose lives are affected by ours will benefit. For my family, friends, and community, I believe in God, believe he rewards those who seek him, and believe he hears us when we ask for help in our time of need.

Help for rescue
Lord, amazing rescue
My joy abounds
for God, you rescued me
And every day I need it
you’re my life preserver Jesus
you’re so good to me


Help for rescue
Lord amazing rescue
Though my ship’s plunging
you lift me up on wings
You’re never late, you meet my faith
Every time you bring me in
for a safe landing


Help for rescue
Lord, amazing rescue
When I’m uncertain
you point me home
When I go forth, you’re always north
I can’t be lost,
you’re my forever compass bearing


For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16 ESV


© Joel Tipple 5/2/2020




Pressure

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When I started thinking about this topic, I first considered the oft used analogy of diamonds. You know the one. It takes a lot of pressure to make a diamond! If you’re going through a lot of pressure right now, don’t worry. Hang in there; someday you’ll be a beautiful diamond! Okay, sure, there’s value to the reference. But the truth is, if we were to only go through a tiny fraction of the real pressure carbon has to undergo before it turns into a diamond, we would be a squishy mess. I don’t even like headaches. Little ones. I’m a weeny like that. The truth is, we’re all undergoing various kinds of pressure, such as: physical, the actual results of the virus or emotional, the fear of getting sick and the financial fallout due to shuttered or severely limited businesses. Often those physical and mental/emotional stresses meld together as one transforms and intensifies the other. Stress can and does take a huge toll on our minds and bodies. Attempts to minimize or ignore what we’re going through don’t really reduce our suffering or give us healing.

So…
Ask for help. Our society, despite all the ways we’re technically connected, is in ways more disconnected that ever, especially during this time when we have a reason to distance ourselves physically. That can be an even bigger challenge for introverts like me, as we’re already prone to isolating ourselves. Always keeping things to yourself and trying to be your own hero has limitations and can even make things worse. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. Why would you tell yourself or anyone else to ignore a life disrupting mental or emotional issue? Take advantage of resources. Even if some offices remain closed, many professionals are available for phone or internet consultations who weren’t before the current crisis. Ask questions and be your own best advocate. Also, be on the lookout for others who need help. Go out of your way to be a human life preserver.

Don’t neglect yourself spiritually. Trust God to help you in your time of need. Jesus Christ was clear when he directed his followers. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:10-11 ESV The Apostle Paul writes, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Finally, know that God has a plan for your life. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV

From my deepest depths
I have sought you Jesus
my keeper and redeemer
You know best how I’m made
All ways I’m found wanting
have been covered and paid
You’ve purchased my eternity


I have assurance
my king Jesus
blessed assurance
for if You are for us
who can be against us?
No power on earth
can approach
that of your majesty.


I know peace
my shepherd, Jesus
my way maker, comforter
When the defects of this world
threaten with darkness to enfold
those I love and my life
you fill me with serenity


© Joel Tipple 4/25/2020

Trouble

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I was nine years old. Four or five of us boys from the neighborhood were out riding our bikes on a summer day. We didn’t have anything special to do; we were just out. One of the nice things about growing up in a small town when I did was if your parents didn’t have any particular chores for you to do, you were given the freedom to just go be a child and explore, so that’s what we were doing. Beyond making sure we got home by dinner, all we had to do was try to stay out of any trouble we’d have to explain to adults later. Little did we know as we set out that soon we’d all be caught up in a sting operation.

At the end of the street where I lived was a field with some scrub trees and berry bushes fronting a little hill. The area looked interesting enough, so we all dropped our bikes at the fence in front of the field and made our way to the other side. After we’d walked around a bit, one of my buddies tossed a can he’d found at one of the berry bushes. That’s when our lazy summer day got a little more lively because the bees that we’d apparently disturbed saw my friend’s can as their very own personal Pearl Harbor. At this age, all I knew about bee attacks was what I’d learned from cartoons. That is, if you made bees angry, they formed a central squadron that you could see coming toward you. Then, all you had to do was run faster than the bees could fly. I’m pretty sure Yogi Bear did it a couple times. However, in our case we had no warning. One moment we were laughing and talking. The next, we were screaming and frantically running toward our bikes. Looking back, they must have been honey bees because their barbs were getting pulled out after harpooning us. I got most of my stings on one arm, and the bees were falling out of my sleeve as I pedaled home. One friend was actually stung by a bumble bee. I don’t know if it was a mercenary or just doing the right thing by supporting its local bee friends. Thankfully, none of us were allergic, and we all recovered from our bee experience fairly quickly in the days that followed, but we discovered that sometimes even if you’re not looking for trouble, trouble will find you anyway.

Right now, we’re all in the middle of one sort of trouble or another, many of them related to a central cause. There’s even argument over whether we saw it coming. But whether we did or not, it’s here. Our physical and financial health is under pressure worldwide, either directly related to covid 19 or the governmental response to it. Once again, political disputes over how to react appropriately threaten to cause irreparable damage to relationships that are already under pressure, all the way from personal to international. How do we react? How do we conduct ourselves during great times of stress? God has taught us we are to confront trouble in our lives not with our strength but with the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way we will stand firm, and not lose heart but rather exercise the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7
ESV

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10 ESV


Lord, give me courage
when it seems that I’m all out
give me answers
when I try to make my own
When I’m at my wit’s end
calm my mind
hold me safe
a branch of your vine


You are light
where there is darkness
understanding
where there’s confusion
certainty
where there is doubt
help me abide
a branch of your vine


© Joel Tipple 4/19/2020










To The Dark For Me

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33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Mark 15:33-34 NIV


Easter. We celebrate on this day the victory over darkness Jesus secured for us. This free gift of eternal life was dearly bought. Consider for a moment the darkest day you’ve ever experienced. The loneliest. Has there ever been a time when the entire weight of the world seemed pressed down upon you? Multiply that. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived life as a human, preached the kingdom of God, and performed many miracles, including raising the dead. This God/man was then unjustly convicted and sentenced to a brutal public execution. It began at about nine in the morning. At noon, as the Bible records, the land went dark for three hours. Think about how frightening this must have been for those who experience it! The longest solar eclipse is a matter of minutes. It must have seemed like the world was coming to an end. However, instead of a bitter end, Jesus’ death heralded a wonderful new beginning for all of mankind because Jesus rose from the dead, thereby defeating death forever. If we believe in Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us, if we then turn from our way and accept His. We can have the gift of eternal life He paid for with His blood. Jesus Christ experienced terrible darkness so we can live in eternal light.


When night fell
in the middle of the day
Jesus, you paid the price
so I didn’t have to pay.
You went to the dark for me.

On earth, in heaven, our king.
There, between two thieves,
you gave compassion
while demanding none for yourself.
You went to the dark for me.

To the dark for me,
to the dark for me,
through the scourge, the nails, the taunts and the mockery.
To the dark for me,
to the dark for me,
though in agony, Jesus, you went to the dark for me.

Now I have dreams
because you faced the nightmare,
and there is nothing I can give you
except surrender.

Sweet mystery,
sweet mystery,
that my pardon was purchased before I could search it,
sweet mystery.
The greatest story…
I’ll tell your story,
that you sacrificed your life for all mankind.

Though I do great deeds,
I could never repay.
Though thousands revere me and honor my name,
I could never earn the gift you gave away…
when you defeated the grave.

To the dark for me,
you went to the dark for me,
when Jesus, a curtain fell across the sun.
Lamb of God, given and risen, glorious one.
We’re freed from sin, so now and forever, your love has won…
because you went to the dark for me,
you went to the dark for me,
He went to the dark… for you.

©Joel Tipple
#1/17

In Your Eyes

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Unless you are blind, when you encounter someone, you probably use the information their facial expression provides you to help assess their mood. Whether they are angry, sad, or somewhere in between, their smile, or lack of one, can go a long way toward helping you figure out where they are emotionally. However, these days many people are wearing masks when out in public in an effort to slow transmission of the covid 19 virus. In that case, we automatically turn to another major source of body language, the eyes. It’s often said that eyes are a gateway to the soul. Eyes help us see what’s going on inside another person. Meeting, or failing to meet another person’s gaze can often be a clue in itself. With practice, study of the eyes can even tell you whether the person you’re interacting with is being genuine. Poker players will often wear dark glasses in an attempt to keep other players from guessing the quality of their hand.

More about eyes:

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Matthew 6:22-23 NIV


Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
Proverbs 21:4 ESV


Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
Psalm 119:37 ESV


22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Luke 10:22-24 NIV


“When a person starts to talk about their dreams, it’s as if something bubbles up from within. Their eyes brighten, their face glows, and you can feel the excitement in their words.”
John Maxwell

“It is necessary to keep one’s compass in one’s eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges.”
Michelangelo

The pane of your windows
barrier between outside and in
melts away with emotion
through that membrane so thin
Thoughts come/go, an instant
without attention you might miss
Truth escapes your edit
though you try to hold it
like a fist
When invited, God’s spirit
makes a home
in the heart He resides
so one to another, sister and brother
His love shines through the eyes


© Joel Tipple 4/5/2020