Death in the Pot

Yep. It’s in the Bible! Pot is deadly. Or maybe what is in the pot is deadly . . .

     When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the company of prophets was sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Put the large pot on, and make some stew for the company of prophets.” One of them went out into the field to gather herbs; he found a wild vine and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were.  They served some for the men to eat. But while they were eating the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” They could not eat it. He said, “Then bring some flour.” He threw it into the pot, and said, “Serve the people and let them eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. (2Ki 4:38-41)

Someone a lot wiser than me explained the symbolism in this story to me once.  You tell me if they are right.

The school of prophets are holding class and they get hungry. The story is about physical hunger, but the prophets are also spiritually hungry. It’s in a middle of a famine. I am told that if you get too hungry – famine kind of hungry – whether it is spiritual or physical hunger — sometimes you will eat (or believe) anything.

One of the students goes out and gathers food, but he gathers gourds that he doesn’t know anything about and brings them back to feed to the prophets. Spiritually speaking. . .  he stumbles on some theology that he has never heard before and readily accepts it as right. He is so spiritual hungry that he will believe anything. The student-prophets accept it too. No one questions it and they all eat it up. But this food – this theology – is poison!

The students cry out to the Prophet Elisha.  He grabs some flour. Spiritually speaking, the bread of life is made of flour.  He throws the flour – the bread of life (the Jesus story) – into the pot. And suddenly the stew is edible. Spiritually speaking, he measures the new theology up against the teachings of Jesus and the theology suddenly takes on a right meaning.

For all of you who read this thinking my story was about the kind of pot you smoke . . . shame on you! 🙂 So… what do you think this story is really all about?

April’s Books

Zombies

Last night I asked my son Brent – who is the original Bibliologist in our family (with three degrees in ministry, Christian education, and theology) turned software developer – “What is the weirdest story in the Bible?”

He immediately answered “the zombies in Matt 27.”  He is right . . .  this is a strange one.

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. (Mat 27:50-53)

At the moment of Jesus’ death, there was an earthquake and a bunch of holy people were raised from the dead. The word translated raised means to “bring into being.” Yet, they stayed in their tombs for a few more days until Jesus was resurrected.

Weird enough! But why would they stay in their tombs – which had been opened in the earthquake? Was it because they had nothing to wear except decomposing burial clothes? If I find myself coming to life in a casket . . .  I am out of there, naked or not.

But then, when Jesus is resurrected, they walk on into Jerusalem. Did they walk in a group? Did they dance like the Thriller zombies? Did they go home? If they had been dead a few generations, how would they even know who their living relatives were? Imagine your long ago buried great-great-grandma showing up at your door.

What happens to them? Do they live for some amount of time and then die again? Are they reburied in their old tombs? Still the questions gets weirder . . . Is it possible that they are still living among us? Now that is the way I want the story to end . . .  I want them to still be here living and working among us.  Look around . . .  what about the guy one cube over?

Well, they are never mentioned again in scripture nor are they mentioned in the other three gospels. If all scripture is given for edification, what do you take away from this story?

April’s Books

Don’t Look Back. You’re Not Going that way.

It sounds right: Don’t Look Back. You’re Not Going that way.

Right? Good advice, but bet you didn’t know it is ancient advice.

Lot and his family have been living in a city that was ruled by rapists and violent gangs. But – let’s tell the truth – Lot was not a great guy either. To protect a couple of angels from one of the city’s gangs, he offered the gang his two virgin daughters to “do to them as you please” (Gen 19:8). Lot was not great.  Lot wasn’t even okay. Lot was a faithless man.

Angels don’t need human protection. But Lot was willing to give up his daughters to a violent gang. Just so he could get a blessing from them? Who was more wicked? Lot or the violent gang?

Anyway… the angels, through supernatural means, end up protecting Lot and his family from the gang. Then they tell Lot…

Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed. (Gen 19:17)

Lot argues with the angels… it really isn’t his style to rush off like this. Besides he might not make it out in time anyway. But the angels moved him outside the city and kicked his butt down the road. With him are his two daughters and wife.

But… Lot’s wife, who has to be more than a little traumatized at having her daughters offered up to a violent gang the night before and was now fleeing town without her belongings, looks back as they are leaving the city. Upon doing so she is turned to a pillar of salt. A pillar of salt! That’s sci-fi.

Was this a punishment from God? Or did she do it purposely by choice? No one seems to grieve her death.  She isn’t mentioned again in the story. She isn’t even given a name. What the heck kind of story is this anyway?

She looked back instead of looking where she was headed. Why? Perhaps because she was stuck with Lot, the scum of a man who would give up her daughters to a violent mob. Perhaps she wanted to revel in the death of the people who tried to hurt her family. Perhaps she was just curious.

I take away only questions from this story — stretching what details we have. But I wonder if Lot’s wife didn’t need to hear the following from a friend so she wouldn’t look back:

  • The trauma of the past does not predict the possibilities of the future.
  • Hoping for the punishment of evil people, only holds us back from seeing the possibilities of what is ahead.
  • Sometimes curiosity is a bad thing. Not always… but when you’ve been warned, take care.

Maybe I have a friend who needs to hear these things. Maybe I need to hear them.

At any rate… “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” Can’t make this story fluffy like the bunny in the picture.  Sorry… next blog will be funny and shorter. Promise! I got carried away.

What do you see in the story? You can read the original in Genesis 19.

April’s Books

 

April’s 2019 “Fun Bible Stuff” Blog

In 2018, I enjoyed writing about love. All year!

But this year… I am going to write about scripture. Mostly the weird stuff and strange stories. Things that you might not know about. Things that might be controversial. You are welcomed to comment and even challenge me!

This should be fun! Please find the “Follow me” button somewhere on this page and follow along.

April’s Books

Reading “St. Francis and the Christian Life” to your dog? Why not?

We all know St. Francis loved animals!  We also know he preached to birds and even a wolf! So… you can read the first three chapters of St. Francis and the Christian Life to your dog (cats are giving it a 5 star rating too!) for free. Just click here.

If you are considering using the book in a small group or Sunday school class, you can check out the lesson plans at the end of the book on Amazon – just click on “Look inside.”

April’s Books

 

Love and Forgiveness:  A Spiritual Practice for Forgiving

Gosh do I need to practice forgiveness lately!  Maybe you do too. Jesus taught that we are to love everyone – even our enemies. But to love someone who has hurt you, you first have to forgive them! And that is not easy.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:43

Below is a spiritual practice to try. Set aside some time, get to a quiet place where you can think, and bring some paper and a pen (or your laptop if that is your style). You may need to do this practice over several days. Take your time.

  • Start by praying. Ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you as you seek to forgive. Picture yourself wrapped up in the Spirit’s embrace.
  • You are going to prayerfully write out the answers to three questions:
    1. What has the offender done that needs forgiving? Include why you think they did it.
    2. Have you done anything before, during, or after the offense that also needs forgiveness? Note: The answer may very well be that you haven’t done anything wrong. Don’t try to implicate yourself unnecessarily. Many times, powerless people will try to find fault in themselves so they can have a chance at fixing the situation, but it is unhelpful to blame yourself if you are innocent.
    3. What might God be able to teach you through this situation?
  • Write out a prayer asking God to forgive the offender (and to forgive you too, if necessary). In this prayer, ask God to fill your heart with compassionate love for the other person. This does not mean you forget what they have done. It does not mean that you think what they have done is okay or that they should not be held accountable for the wrongs they have done. It means you are going to let God deal with them so that you are set free to act in love toward them rather than seek revenge.
  • If appropriate, it is important to go and talk to the person – maybe share what you have written. This is how Christians have an authentic community centered on Christ. Note: Talking to the other person may not be appropriate. If the person might hurt you physically or verbally, if talking to them might cause the other person more harm than good, or if the person has asked you not to bother them, then it is probably not appropriate. It is absolutely possible to forgive someone whom you will never see again. Ask the Holy Spirit what is appropriate and wait for an answer before going to talk to the offender.
  • Hold onto what you have written and reread it when/if you ever start to feel unforgiveness toward that person. Once and done, is not how it usually works. It is a process that takes time to heal. You may even have more insights as you reread your words later so update it as needed.

April’s Books

Love and Political Correctness

52% of all Americans say they are against the country becoming more politically correct and are upset that there are too many things they can’t say anymore. Overall, 55% of Millennials aged 18-29 are in favor of the country becoming more politically correct, while a majority of everybody older than 30 is against the idea.  76% of Republicans are against the country becoming more politically correct compared to 55% of Democrats.  — NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist Poll

Love isn’t what we do because it makes us feel good. Anyone can do that! Love is what we do that makes others feel good – or better yet, actually enhances their lives.

Being politically correctly, treating a person as they wish to be treated, is a big part of love. But apparently 52% of all Americans don’t get that. Yes, being politically correct is hard – it takes work – it means you have to get to know people, spend time with them, understand where they are coming from, and what they want and need. It puts their comfort before your own. You even have to be willing to be wrong and ask for forgiveness. You have to be willing to keep trying to get it right.

I watched a video not long ago which interviewed a dozen or more Native Americans. They were each asked how they wanted to be referred to. Some wanted to be called Indians. Others didn’t like that term at all.  Some really didn’t like the term Native Americans, but were okay with Natives. Others wanted to be recognized as First Nation People.

There was no one right answer.

And you will find this same kind of “label diversity” across all races, all religions, all people. It isn’t a Native American thing. Its’ a human thing. Try to label any group of people and there will be people who don’t like that particular label.

So how can we ever be politically correct? It’s too hard. Right? Well . . .  how can we ever love anyone then?

A true demonstration of love requires we get to know the individual people and groups God brings into our lives. Then should it ever become necessary or appropriate, we ask them what words they identify by and address them by their personal choice. This demonstrates that they are important enough for to us to make an effort.

And if we offend someone by accident, we apologize, learn from it, and use the language they prefer in the future. All of this applies to any words that might be offensive, not just labels.

Demonstrating love is hard and can be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean Christ hasn’t called us to the hard and uncomfortable things in life. Political correctness is a big part of demonstrating love. Do it because you love others!

Check out April’s books!

Do Random Acts of Kindness Equal Love?

Last week, I went to the hospital with my sister-in-law while she had out patient surgery. After the surgery got underway, I drove around looking for lunch. The best I could find without going too far was a Kroger. So I went in, bought some bottled water and a power bar.  Then I headed toward the register. I wasn’t really satisfied with what I had gotten so I was walking slowly, checking the aisle out to see if I could find something to go with my power bar when a woman surprised me.

“Get in line ahead of me,” she said.

I wasn’t done looking and I wasn’t ready to get in line.

“Thanks, but…”

“Get in line ahead of me,” she said aggressively, almost pleading.

I wondered if she had one of those “Do One Random Act of Kindness Every Day During Advent” calendars like the one I posted on my Facebook page the other day. Her face was not a particularly kind one.  She didn’t seem to be doing this out of the kindness of her heart. But it was really important to her that I do what she said. What was her story, I wondered?

I actually started to get in front of her.

Then I realized that there were three customers with big carts of groceries in front of her. I looked at my two items and over at the self-check out and said, “Thanks, but it looks like self-check out is a better choice for me.”

To which she responded, “Do whatever you want then.” As if I had ruined her day.

Random Acts of Kindness. Are they really expressions of love?

Maybe. But not all the time and not in every circumstance. And they can be kinda shallow.

I heard of a church youth group that randomly decided to do something nice for a group of homeless families that had set up camp in a dilapidated and abandoned church. The youth director asked, “What can we do for the kids living in that old church building?”

Someone said, “I bet they would love to have popcorn.”

Everyone agreed that would be a great gift. They would immediately go buy those microwaveable popcorn boxes and take them over to the church. It was an awesome random act of kindness. They couldn’t wait to see the reaction on the homeless kids’ faces.

It’s a random act of kindness. It’s nice.  It’s loving. Right?

Not if you don’t have a microwave. Not if you don’t have electricity. Not if you are homeless. The microwaveable popcorn was completely unhelpful and only reminded the homeless kids of how bad off they really were.

Love gets to know the people it is kind to.  Love asks the other person what they think they need and addresses the need.  Love is bigger and better than random acts of kindness. Now I am not suggesting we stop being kind to random people.  I am suggesting that we not think that random acts of kindness are all we need to do.

God calls us into relationships so that we can truly serve each other. Intentional acts of love always trump random acts of kindness.  Always.

Check out April’s books!

Love In a Hawk’s Feather

     Two weeks ago, as Maggie and I do every day, we were taking our hour long walk through the park. I let Maggie navigate where we go each day. She literally stops and points where she wants to walk. I know that sounds crazy, but a lot of things are going to sound crazy about this story. And that is probably the least crazy part.
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     What was different about this walk is that this time she took me through the forest. Usually we stay on a path. So I was negotiating undergrowth when I saw a Red Tail Hawk feather on the ground in front of me.
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     If it had not been for my daughter-in-law, I might not have paused to look at it. But my daughter-in-law is an Ojibwe Native American. A year ago, we hiked the Barolo region of Italy together where she collected dozens of feathers over the week, cleaned them with hand sanitizer, and put them in our hat bands. I marveled at her enthusiasm each time she found one.  Because of her, I can never again overlook a feather lying in my path.
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     So I stopped and stared and reflected on it.
hawk 1
     I have watched a Red Tail Hawk flying through the park and into my neighborhood for many months now. In my heart, I immediately believed she left her feather just for me. It isn’t any tail feather.  The Red Tail Hawk has one on each wing that grows perpendicular to the other wing feathers. It is marked differently than the rest.  This is the feather she left me.
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     This feather was remarkable to me for two other reasons as well. First, I have been reading Henry Nouwen’s book called Discernment where he gives us permission to look for the Spirit everywhere — even in a Hawk’s feather. So I took notice. Was God talking to me through this feather?
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     I immediately thought so. I had been waiting for an answer to a question that might change the course of my life. It was a big deal and I was anxious. I knew the feather had something to do with that question.
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     So I consulted with a Native American source as to what it meant when a Red Tail Hawk gave you its special feather. I find Native American spirituality to be quite wise. It said… “The Great Spirit is delivering a message to you. Stop, breathe, and take in that message fully. It will lead you on the right path. You are being asked to listen to the advice that friends and family are giving you. The message you are receiving about the decision you must make is correct and only comes from love. Allow yourself to let go of the control and surrender. You will be guided to the best place for all involved. Allow your soul to be guided.”
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     The thing that struck me most was that the decision “comes only out of love” of those discerning with me. I treasured that more than anything else — more than the particular answer itself. To be loved by God’s beloved community is such an extraordinary gift that I was thrilled by it! Comforted by it.
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     One week later, the decision has been partly made and indeed was delivered with great love. I wait for the rest in hopefulness!
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     Where will the Spirit show up today? Henry Nouwen says that the Spirit is always with us, always speaking to us and often in creative and unexpected ways. We just need to keep our eyes and ears open — watch, wait, and be ready to listen.
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April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website. This sale ends Dec 30.