Bindings: Reflections on faith, life, and good booksTweet
Posted 1/5/15 at 12:58 AM | OakTara
I’ve often considered prayer to be a mysterious thing, a fine balance between God’s part and my part. Pastors and teachers instruct us to consider the Lord’s Prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 when we wonder how to pray. Certainly, this passage is a good model. But I’m also intrigued by Jesus’s prayer in John, chapter 17. Here we see what is on His heart right before His death. I don’t know about you, but I lean in close when someone on his deathbed shares final words.
Let’s do the same in this passage. In the presence of His disciples, Jesus makes seven requests of the Father.
1. That He be glorified (vs. 1).
Since Jesus and the Father are one, His primary consideration was that He be glorified so that He might bring glory to the Father. Adoration of the God-head is on His mind. It should be on my mind as well as I converse with those around me. Wherever I go and in whatever I do, I should be thinking about how I can best bring God glory. FULL POST
Posted 12/30/14 at 8:57 PM | OakTara
A few years ago, our family decided to make good use of all those Christmas cards and letters we receive during the holiday season. Rather then toss them out after Christmas, we place them in a basket on our kitchen table. Cards and letters we hurriedly opened and hung during the busy days of December, we now thoughtfully scrutinize in the New Year.
After breakfast, each one of us draws a card/letter from the top of the pile. We then take turns lifting the giver of the card up to our heavenly Father for His continued work in his or her life. We pray specifically for any needs mentioned and praise God for ways He has already answered prayer during the past year. When we finish praying, we place the cards on the bottom of the stack. We follow this routine until we have prayed over every card and letter in the basket at least two times.
Praying over our Christmas cards creates a bond with family, friends, and missionaries, many of whom we have not seen for years. FULL POST
Posted 12/28/14 at 10:55 PM | OakTara
Do you ever recall some things you did as a kid and wonder “What in this world was I thinking?” I have a variety of such memories. I, along with many boys that grew up when I did, pulled some bonehead stunts like jumping off the roof of a house with an umbrella. Mary Poppins came out when I was young so I know why we tried this stunt. My experience didn’t work as well as hers. Maybe it was because there wasn’t any music playing, although I may have heard a few birds singing after I hit the ground. I think Mary Poppins must have had a special type of umbrella that had not made its way to Alabama. Those of us who have pulled that stunt could be listed as dumb and dumber. Jumping off a rooftop with an open umbrella and thinking I could slowly float to the ground was dumb. Jumping off a rooftop with an umbrella that had not been opened was dumber. I felt even a little dumber when Mama found her inside out umbrella! FULL POST
Posted 12/23/14 at 12:39 AM | OakTara
I missed Christmas in our local church one year, having been away visiting family. When I returned, I asked a friend, "How did the pageant go?" Being away, alas, meant missing our Christmas pageant.
And I loved her answer. "You know," she said, grinning, "it was just amazing. All the pieces fitted together, they all came together. The costumes were laid out with names and everyone put on their costumes and, well, it all just came together! It was wonderful. One minute there were piles of clothing on the table and the next minute it seemed we were acting out a pageant!"
And so it did come together. But I missed seeing the great story of Bethlehem told in our parish sanctuary on the red-carpeted steps leading to the altar. I knew that Angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary and she said be it unto me according to your word. I knew that Mary, when the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, traveled to Bethlehem where there would be no room for them in the inn, that she gave birth to the Savior in a manger-cave. Shepherds surely kept watch and guarded their flocks by night until a heavenly host appeared, singing glory to God and on earth peace among men. On this first noel the angels, I knew, sang joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king! And the shepherds went on to seek this king born in a stable outside Bethlehem. All of this happened, I was sure, on the red carpet leading to the altar where candles flamed. I could see it all. FULL POST
Posted 12/19/14 at 12:09 AM | OakTara
Once upon a time, long ago, there lived a young lady named Mary. Mary was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. Before they were married, and while she was still a virgin, Mary was found to be with child. God sent an angel named Gabriel to explain to Mary what was happening. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” Mary asked, “How can this be since I have not known a man?” And the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Joseph, being a just man, and not wanting to make Mary a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” FULL POST
Posted 12/16/14 at 1:20 AM | OakTara
I sat in the back of the theater, wrapped in darkness, in shock. The credits of Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug scrolled up the screen as the theater came alive with murmuring din. What was that? I wondered. It certainly wasn’t the story I had read and loved. Driving away from the theater, I struggled to sort Bilbo’s narrative out of the film’s maze of action sequences. When were realistic, crucial friendships formed? Where was the drive of the plot, the drama of Lord of the Rings? Was not the last forty-five minute fight simply superfluous CGI?
I am not alone. Many moviegoers, especially Tolkien fans, have expressed similar confusion and dissatisfaction with Peter Jackson’s adaptation. In the words of one critic, “It’s a mess, and during that [final] fight [sequence] the whole production felt like a completely different film.” FULL POST
Posted 12/10/14 at 2:20 AM | OakTara
Church goers learn the parable of the Ten Pounds (or Talents) from childhood (Luke 19:11-27). A nobleman left his country “to get royal power for himself and then return.”
The nobleman gave money to his servants to invest in profitable enterprises while he left the country for a season. “Do business with these until I come back.”
When he returned, he called his servants for an accounting of how they had spent the money entrusted to them. One servant doubled his money and was given charge of a larger enterprise. Another servant had made a smaller profit and was given more responsibility in keeping with the ability he had shown.
One servant had done nothing with his money. Fearful of risking it in any way, even to open a bank account with it, he had buried it in the ground. The nobleman was displeased and ordered all the money that had been given the fearful servant to be taken from him. FULL POST
Posted 12/7/14 at 11:27 PM | OakTara
“There are some things you cannot and should not do for others, even for their ostensible good.”1 These are the words of Dr. Mark Amstutz, professor of Political Science at Wheaton College. Amstutz made this remark during a discussion about the role that Christians play in international aid and relief efforts, a role that is at times impractical and ineffective, and sometimes downright dangerous.
The problem with Christian aid and relief efforts comes down to two factors. First, too many Christians are in the habit of having compassion without action. These are the people who talk a big game about caring for those who are suffering without actually putting practical, purposeful action to their words.
For Christians, especially, this is an easy trap to fall into. It’s easy for a Christian to hear about a tragedy on the other side of the world and say, “I’ll pray about it.” Nothing is wrong with prayer, but the world is in dire need of pragmatic thinkers and determined people of action. The Liberian family mourning the loss of their child to Ebola today doesn’t need pity. They need help—tangible, practical help in the form of education about the disease, medical care, quarantine facilities, etc. The problem isn’t that Christians aren’t compassionate enough; the problem is that compassion doesn’t always produce real-life results. FULL POST
Posted 12/4/14 at 1:47 AM | OakTara
Our island in the middle of the Northwest’s Puget Sound is a lush place, with abundant rainfall most years. During late summer and early fall, backyard gardeners bring produce to meetings—book groups, church groups, discussion groups—any excuse to give away their abundance.
The produce is free; the gardeners are giving it away so as not to waste it. Not just zucchini, either. Ripe plums. Cherry tomatoes. Blueberries. Kale. Apples.
We have two apple trees, a Gravenstein, good for eating or cooking, and a Wolf River, wonderful for making pies and applesauce. We take all we need and leave the branches still loaded. We invite our neighbors to take all they want. Gleaners gather all over the community for our food bank. Deer feed on ones that fall on the ground.
Others do not live in such abundance. I cannot send our apples away from the Island, but I can share my offerings of money to reputable charities. I can give money to agencies and policies that support agricultural experts to discover and encourage crops that will produce in different climates to eliminate food scarcity. FULL POST
Posted 12/1/14 at 12:29 AM | OakTara
Each fall ole Billy Bob Bohannon and his first cousin Booger Ray Latimer can hardly wait for deer season to open. They each have several mounts on their living room walls, along a number of largemouth bass,
as well as wild turkey beards.
They begin each year with bow season. Billy Bob has never been the most accurate with a bow but Booger Ray could shoot the eyes out of a gnat! Each year they plant clover and turnip greens in their hunting field. Billy Bob says even if he doesn’t get a deer he can at least bring home a mess of greens
for supper. One year he brought home a mess alright, but not a mess of turnip greens.
They had been sitting out in their blind since before daylight. The sun had been in full shine for a while and they had not seen or heard one single deer. Suddenly Billy Bob pointed at something up in the trees and said, “You see that?” Booger Ray answered, “I don’t see anything but a bunch of trees and I highly doubt there is a big buck up in them.” Billy Bob laughed and said, “No, but there is a big hornet’s nest hanging from that limb.” It was a big one alright; probably about the size of a basketball. Booger Ray lit up like a Roman candle. He said, “Boy wouldn’t that bad boy look good dangling from the antlers of one of my trophies?” Billy Bob answered, “Yeah, but how you gonna get it? That thing is probably twenty feet up.” Booger Ray grinned and asked, “You don’t think I can shoot that thing down?” Billy Bob answered, “Well I don’t know if you can or not but I do know you had better make sure that it is empty before you start shooting at it with an arrow!” Booger Ray said, “Ah, it’s too cold at night for there to still be any hornets in there. They’ve already died or gone in the ground. Booger Ray pulled out one of his razor sharp hunting arrows as Billy Bob fearfully said, “I don’t know.” It took ole eagle eye about a dozen tries and a few actual hits but he finally cut through the twig holding the nest up and
down she came. The two approached the nest cautiously but didn’t detect any signs of life. Booger Ray
grabbed up his trophy and said, “You ready?” FULL POST