28 February 2013

Our saga of what I learned about Intermittent Internet when God taught Elsie Mae (and her mama) a lesson involving Isaac's wells...

Just a few short years ago, Elsie Mae was still home with me all day and we home schooled together. We were reading through Genesis together and came to one of those stories that I always hate going through with my littlers because I don't even totally "get" what they are all about - obviously, I'm not quite able to disciple my kids through an understanding of the passage.

That day, we read:
Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.” So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth,d saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?” They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD.” Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace. That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.
Frankly, I was reading this passage to Elsie Mae to check it off another section of the curriculum I was teaching her that year. Elsie Mae had clearly listened to the story, however, and she asked me the following question: "Mama, why do you think Isaac didn't fight and stop those bad guys from wrecking his wells?"

It isn't very nice for four year olds to spring such deep questions on their unsuspecting mamas, so I did what all teachers have learned to do when asked a question and they have no clue of any reasonable answer - turn it right back around at their student. I told Elsie Mae, "Hon,  I'd rather hear why you think Isaac didn't fight over the wells and instead kept finding and digging new ones."

Before I give you her really-deep-and-she-was-only-four-years-old-at-the-time-response, here's a bit of background.

I've wondered (seven times now, as I was on my seventh time working my way through the curriculum): "Why does God includes this story (Genesis 26:12-25) in the Bible?" I guess it could be there simply as an account of key events in the life of Isaac, but really, it just seems a transition from the story of Isaac lying about Rebekah to Abimelech and his later covenant with Rebekah. Crazy as it sounds, this time through the story, my then 4 year old pointed out how that time of transition was perhaps, one of the higher points - as far as obedience, trust and following the Lord - in the life of Isaac.

Genesis 26:1-12 starts off with a famine in the land and Isaac looking for a reliable way to provide for his family. So he heads for a powerful nearby king and God speaks to him, warning him not to head to Egypt, but to stay in the land and God would provide.

Perhaps God gave him this warning because he knew that sons often repeat the sins of their fathers, and He wanted to protect Isaac from the sins that Abraham committed when he fled to Egypt. Yet we see that Isaac did not trust completely - he relied at least some on his own wisdom and understanding. He obeyed and stayed... and repeated the sin of his father, lying about Rebekah and calling her his sister instead of his wife. Thankfully, God eventually revealed Isaac's deception to the pagan Abimelech, who acted more honorably in this situation than Isaac, protecting Rebekah when her husband didn't. I've always thought that must have been an amazing moment in Rebekah's wife, realizing that God moved in the heart of a powerful pagan king to protect her and her reputation when her husband failed to do so.

God keeps His covenant and blesses Isaac. Isaac's wealth and power frightens Abimelech and he asks Isaac to pack up and leave. Obviously, if Isaac's "potential" frightened Abimelech, then he had some capacity to fight back or at least argue his right to be there. After all, he was where God had told him to be. But Isaac didn't.

He moves away and in some senses, starts over in a new place. One of the first orders of business is digging a new well to provide water for his family and his herds. The well immediately becomes a source of contention.

He leaves that well and digs a second one. It, too, results in conflict between Isaac's men and the local herdsmen.Once again, he moves away to dig a third well and this time, as Isaac says, "At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land." No one protested and Isaac is confident he has found the place where God wants him to pitch his tents.

It was at this point that Elsie Mae popped her question. 

"Mama, why do you think Isaac didn't fight and stop those bad guys from wrecking his wells?"

And like I said, I boomeranged that question right back at her.

Her response floored me. She said, "Isaac was like Jesus. Jesus didn't fight those bad people back who nailed Him on the cross where He died. Isaac made Jesus smile I think, 'cause he let other people get their way and he kept the peace instead a picking fights.... (long pause) That's hard to do, Mama. I fight with my Mary Michelle and Jonathan more than I give them their way. I need to let God fight for me. God must have been happy with Isaac. God talked to him again right after that."

She was spot on. 

After Isaac dug that well, the Lord reappeared to Isaac, renewing His covenant with Abraham and now Issac - and there it says that Isaac called upon the name of the Lord.

I love it when the Holy Spirit teaches my kids - He does such an amazing job that I can't even come close to approximating! I love it almost as much when my Heavenly Father clearly speaks to me through the voices of these kids He's placed in our family. Frankly, I think Elsie Mae needed to hear that message - but not nearly so desperately as I did.

One of my biggest, albeit piddly, frustration living life in Niger is not life threatening nor even greatly life changing but something that simply that irritates, inconveniences and annoys, driving me crazy until at some apparently little thing it all crashes in and I blow your stack and pity the soul who happens to be in the vicinity at the time that happens. It is one of those occurrences that just shouldn't happen, but it does anyway and there is seemingly nothing I can do to stop, change or prevent it. Anyone else relate? Do you ever run into situations like that?

What frustration you ask? Internet service. It is there one minue and gone the next. Usually, all we ever have to do is call the phone company, inform them that our internet isn't working, hear them tell us that we need to pay our bill, then we remind them that we have paid the bill... it is, in fact, paid through the first part of June... hear silence over the phone and then the voice comes back... "Oh, you are absolutely right. Check your internet service now. It should be working."

I could understand that happening once or twice... but we actually went through a stretch where we were calling our internet service every few days... one day several times that day alone. It just shouldn't be that way. I wanted to stomp into the office, show my paid bill, demand to see the person in charge and find out why this kept happening. But that wouldn't have been Isaac's way, at least not according to this story. Sadly, it is my first tendency - not just with internet service providers, but also with co-workers, students I teach, my husband, my kids, neighbors, people at church who ask for help, etc...

In those moments, Isaac held his wells loosely and chose peace and not fighting back, even when he clearly had reason. He could have made a convincing argument that God's will was to claim what was rightfully his - not doing so inconvenienced him greatly... 

As we've been learning lately, in real life, digging wells is not an easy or convenient process, even in this day and age. God was pleased with Isaac's choices and He blessed.

Thankful, today, for this memory of a lesson learned from my little girl and the reminder that I can choose to be at peace with those around, even when beliefs and priorities differ greatly. While I can't compromise convictions or clear commands, I can cede rights and desires for the sake of peace, allowing God to fight the battle in His way and in His timing... to thus please the only One Whose pleasure counts... and it counts for eternity.

-updated post from the archives

Just curious... How would you have answered Elsie Mae's question?

27 February 2013

A really interesting story from this part of the world...

"On this land, everybody is exploited." 
The vast Saharan nation didn't make slavery a crime until 2007. 
Only one slave owner has been successfully prosecuted.

Check out this link from CNN... make sure you take some time to explore as well. 

"Slavery’s last stronghold

Mauritania’s endless sea of sand dunes hides an open secret: An estimated 10% to 20% of the population lives in slavery. But as one woman’s journey shows, the first step toward freedom is realizing you’re enslaved."

Story is by John D. Sutter;
Photography and video are by Edythe McNamee

26 February 2013

let's talk about speaking that local language

I'm from the States.

Have you ever heard someone outright say or imply that foreigners who move to the States just need to learn to speak English?

I have.

Many years ago, I think I might have actually said it myself. Something to the effect of: "If they want to come live in our country, they need to learn to communicate in English."

I don't feel nearly so dogmatic about it, now.

Maybe because I've walked more than a single mile in those shoes. And I probably have many more to walk...

There's a joke you hear circulating in many expat communities. I've heard a few variations, but it basically goes like this:
What do you call someone who speaks two languages?  
~ Canadian
What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
~ European or South American
What do you call someone who speaks four languages?  
~ Asian 
What do you call someone who speaks five or more languages? 
~ African
What do you call someone who speaks only one language? 
~ American
And people laugh - especially in those expatriate circles.

Why is it funny? Because... in the majority of instances, it is true - sadly and sometimes embarrassingly so.

Connor Ludovissy, in an article titled "Monolingual America" published on line in September of 2011, writes
...The vast majority of us are more or less globally illiterate, despite the growing number of people in the United States for whom English is not a first language. In the age of globalization, United States citizens must learn to speak more than English or face the consequences – a weaker position internationally and an increasingly difficult time communicating back in the States. 
According to the United States Census Bureau, 47 million United States residents reported that they spoke a language other than English at home in 2000. In 2007, that number jumped to 55 million. That’s about 14 and 18 percent of the population, respectively. Not only that, but Americans do business all over the world and offer aid to numerous countries in times of distress. We negotiate with foreign governments and merchants, we tour foreign countries and we study abroad at foreign schools. Yet only 26 percent of adult Americans claim to speak a foreign language well enough to maintain a conversation, according to the Gallup organization. 
How could this happen? How could a country with such far-reaching influence have so little experience with foreign languages? How could the so-called “melting pot of the world” be an English-only environment? 
The answer is pretty simple – our disregard for other languages probably stems from good, old fashioned arrogance. We perceive that we do not need to learn any languages other than English, so we don’t. As a powerful country, we prefer to make other countries learn our language instead of learning theirs.
As one who is working on learning bits and pieces of both 3rd and 4th languages, as one who still struggles to communicate in the truly local heart languages of the people who live all around me...

Can I encourage you to be gracious and welcoming when the Lord causes your path to intersect with that of someone who doesn't speak English? 

Can I also encourage you, that when God gives you the opportunity to friend someone who does not speak English as his/her first language, take the time and make the effort to learn some words in their mother tongue... their heart language... instead of insisting on English.

25 February 2013

Turning over that TCK leaf

But TCKs... third culture kids... are nothing short of amazing. Don't you agree?

bi-, tri-, multilinguists

cultural chameleons

experienced world travelers

flexible, adaptable, go-with-the-flow -ers
(think "flow" with a long o sound!)

fascinating conversationalists

both sophisticated and naive all at once 

kids who still almost always somehow stand out in a crowd, 
even when they try their best not to

I don't think I can think about, talk about, write about or look at them in any way objectively. I don't think I can even try.

I know I'm far more than a bit partial....

Click on over to Missionary Mom's Companion, where I talk a bit about some of the challenges these great TCKs will face when their families return to their passport countries for either home assignment or reassignment.

14 February 2013

A perfect Valentine's Day Breakfast for those who've stolen my heart ~

There's nine of 'em, you know... 

...my Valentines!

I usually don't make a big deal of Valentine's Day around our house... I didn't marry one of those gushy, romantic sort of dudes who brings me flowers or chocolates or both on a regular basis. He DOES bring me yummy Niger bottled cokes, and THAT makes me just as happy, however!

A friend recently sent me this recipe for grapefruit doughnuts and I was totally compelled to try it. Several of my kids LOVE grapefruit - they'll cut them in half, freeze them overnight, sprinkle with sugar and then eat them the next morning for breakfast - so I was pretty sure it would be a popular breakfast choice - and breakfast variety (anything besides oatmeal or baguette with peanut butter on it) has been sorely lack in recent weeks. 

I tried the recipe for the first time last week - and with the exception of two complaints, everyone in the family enjoyed them - some saying that this IS their new favorite doughnut. Not only that, it is a delightfully easy recipe to do - making the dough the night before and leaving it in the fridge so that all I need to do is get up, roll 'em, cut 'em and fry 'em the following morning. And you just can't beat the treat that it is - fresh doughnuts for breakfast.

A total aside? The French word for grapefruit is pamplemousse. That is so much much more fun to say than grapefruit, don't you agree? And where does the name grapefruit come from, anyway?

I decided they were such a perfect pink and had an unbelievable flavor for my wacky kiddos who really like grapefruit, I had to do it again this week for Valentine's Day. I broke with my tradition and Valentine's Day has been a bigger than normal deal this year! I made the donuts heart shaped... some where grapefruit flavored and some were raspberry flavored... and all were a lovely pink!

And I'm plotting how to modify this recipe to do a collage of pastel-glazed doughnuts when we celebrate Easter in the very near future!

The kids shared with their classes at school - and now they're all gone!

Did you do anything spacial for Valentine's Day this year? If so, 
please share!

12 February 2013

Homemade Egg Nog.. SO WORTH IT!

My favorite Winnie the Pooh themed pitcher -
purchased many moons ago while we were studying French in Québec City, Québec.
Milk based drinks are always better when served from a glass container, don't you think?

Didn't follow the recipe linked to above, EXACTLY. After all, it is touted as being
an "adult-only" version... and adults-only... this family just ain't!

11 February 2013

Jumping the Gun? Or Procrastination?

It seems like whenever there's a big change coming up, actually known about well in advance, people respond somewhere along a continuum moving from one to the other of two extremes...

And for the rest? Join me today over @ Missionary Mom's Companion, where I'm posting today, continuing with a series on transitioning... Hope to see you there and be sure to hop in on the conversation!

Encountering Jesus - Time to Tarry

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. (John 3.22)
Jesus, with his disciples, is out in the countryside... It is at least the next day after the visit from Nicodemus. They left Jerusalem and headed out. It isn't specific exactly where, but following verses make it clear that they are once again in the vicinity of John the Baptist. 

One thing truly leaped off the pages as I read this verse... not so much as I've quoted it above. Many different translations use the word "tarry" instead of spent time.

Tarry is one of those words that has several negative connotations - more along the lines of dawdling to avoid work or to postpone doing something perceived as unpleasant but that has to be done... maybe in the hopes that someone e In general, the word tarry often contains the idea of inappropriately longer than necessary.

And I love the picture that forms in my mind as I think on Jesus "tarrying," with all of those negative connotations:  Jesus chose to spend time that others might have deemed more wisely spent elsewhere, in a different fashion. After all, He is Messiah. Doesn't He have important things to do, powerful people to see, sick to heal, miracles to perform, piercing teaching to deliver, Pharisees to confront, a world to save?

Yet God Himself deemed most important this time His Son tarried with those men.

And in that, He set a precedent.

He also has time, is willing and desires to take time, to tarry with me.

Sadly, realistically, truthfully?

I'm most often the one that feels I can't -
doesn't -
won't -

tarry with the Lord.

You know? If I say I want to encounter Jesus, 
I must be, at the very least, willing to offer that "sacrifice" of time.

How about you?
What prevents you from tarrying with Jesus?
Or from tarrying with those He brings into your path each and every day?

this week's gratitude list
(#'s 3572 - 3589)

a Lord who loves to tarry

a Lord who considers tarrying with me an important priority

great Mexican restaurant put on by the senior class last weekend

Mary Michelle has now gone two weeks free from her mysterious recurrent fever - praying it continues

dessert pizza

homemade pretzels dipped in hot mustard

watching Mentalist episodes with my Anna-girl

starting something I've been meaning to start with my 7th grade math class

pink grapefruit doughnuts

and adapting that recipe to use with other kinds of fruit... juice...

elementary school campouts

slumber parties at the dorm

staying in my jammies almost all day on Sunday... not 'cause I was sick, but just 'cause I could

Spirit Week at school

looking forward to a four day weekend

finding a great pair of jeans at our local equivalent of Goodwill

finding a buyer for some of our used and no longer needed home school curriculum

a hope and a future

Ten most recent posts in this series:
Click here for all of the titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.

10 February 2013

Impatiently "patienting" ~

~ for Thing One to have her baby/babies.

We've thought it could happen any day, for at least a month, now!

Goat midwives we are not.

09 February 2013

The Foolishness of Faith ~ Thoughts prompted by a debate ~

Tim often accuses me of liking to debate... Actually, he usually calls it arguing, but that's beside the point. 

Look at that face... This is one who clearly and truly LIKES to debate.
She'd argue with a fence post. Of course, my mom always said the exact same thing about me...
I never "did" debate in high school (He did). In fact, I avoided speech class unless absolutely necessary, and always opted for options that did not require me to stand and speak in front of others. While studying at Penn State, I took the required speech class that only necessitated one longer, more intensively researched presentation instead of choosing one requiring several smaller, easier-to-prepare speeches. It wasn't the preparation that I found difficult... 

In fact, I never even saw a debate until I was big and grown up and thought that I should actually watch a presidential debate to be more informed as a voter - at least at that time, the debate was a bit of a joke and more theatrical than informationally substantial.

This debate, however, intrigued me...

...because this is a question that comes up from time to time in my life.

Is it awful for a "missionary" to admit that?

What does it mean if I confess that I walk through seasons where I want to believe, I choose to believe, and I do believe that the grace to believe can only come from God. But I still have moments, days, seasons where I wonder if... I wonder if this life is all there is.

It's actually pretty scary, sometimes.

And a very uncomfortable place to be.

Watching a debate like this one can be downright terrifying. After all, what if the wrong side ends up being more convincing... more plausible... more whatever?

I finally have come to the point where I don't mind the wrestling. I know I've said it before - Jacob left limping, but blessed. I keep coming back to him because, for some reason, that story in the Bible speaks to my heart. I do identify with that particular biblical character... and he was, wasn't he? A character. In almost every sense of the word.


So I regularly examine this faith I've claimed as mine, making sure I still know and believe all those things I'm so willing to profess, verbally as well as in written formats.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, ESV)
How about you? 
Do you ever have doubts? 

Do you ever wonder if this life is all there is ...
or if there really is something more - an eternity to anticipate?

If you do struggle with these sorts of thoughts, 
how do you address them when they come?

Do you believe it is sinful to doubt and to wrestle with the reality of faith?
Why or why not?

PS~ I've not yet finished watching the debate linked to in this post; 
it takes awhile with our internet here. 
But I'm planning to finish it this weekend!
If you take the time to watch, be sure to comment with your impressions!

08 February 2013

Five Minute Friday ~ Bare

Thankful for Friday - although it will be a crazy busy day after a relatively low key week. 

I've needed a week like this! A week of normal routine, but without so much accomplishing needing to be accomplished,,, I've actually been able to enjoy responsibilities this week!


I look forward to Friday and the FMF word prompt each week. It is fun to write spontaneously... just letting the words flow and whatnot. 

But I'm having a hard time getting excited about today's word. Just kinda blah.

I could easily write something about bare feet - particularly since my kids boycott shoes. Literally. Quite frankly? They've learned this questionable habit from their mama... If I wanted to write about that, I probably even have a couple of cute "little people piggies"  photos readily available. Toes are often referred to as "piggies" around this house - remember the rhyme: "This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home..."?

Or I could write about horses and girls riding bareback. You should've heard them yattering about last night's lesson when they got home last night. I seriously considered that thought for a moment; but I posted pics of horse lessons yesterday and it seemed kinda lame and boring to do another post on that the very next day.

No ideas sparking - I typed bare into the google search engine. Surprisingly enough, the very first thing that popped up? 

"archaic past of bear."

I read that, and the following words, as I first memorized them - in archaic, king's English, of course - spilled from my mind and fingers:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13)
Bare seems like a pretty good place to begin this day... after all.


Wanna join the fun?
Check out what to do - and if you hop in, make sure to let me know!

from Lisa Jo~

"Got five minutes? Let’s write. Let’s write in shades of real and brave and unscripted. Let’s just write and not worry if it’s just right or not.
  1. Write for 5 minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
  2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
  3. Go buck wild with encouragement for the five minuter who linked up before you."

06 February 2013

NO Wordless Wednesday this week - One path to moderation ~ at least when it comes to potato chips!

You know, I'm pretty sure we'd eat a lot fewer potato chips if we actually went through the process of making them...

First you wash and peel the potatoes.

Then they have to be very thinly sliced and kept in cool water until ready to fry.

Heat the oil.

Drain the potatoes.

Fry - until mostly done.

Remove from oil and allow to cool.

Place back in the oil to fry again, crisping the chips.

Remove from oil, drain and salt.

Repeat several times until you have enough for your family.

Call in the munchkins.

Munch away until chips are gone.

One nice-sized handful of these sufficed - for everyone in the family... 

... well, except for this one!

But then, she's only helped peel the potatoes once or twice in her lifetime!

05 February 2013

Some days...

...like when I see recipes like this that I'd really love to try...


...and I really miss Meijers and Walmart and living someplace where I can buy all the necessary ingredients without having to go through culinary contortions to come up with appropriate and still delicious substitutions.

And would some one please remind me to wipe the drool off my chin!

04 February 2013

In the Face of Deep Disappointment

“Men and women enter ministry for various reasons.  ‘Because I want to be a deep disappointment to others as well as to myself’ is rarely listed among them.”
~ Jeff Manion, The Land Between

Why are you, as an international worker [or anyone, really], doing what you are doing?

And do you feel as though you are accomplishing what you’ve set out to do? Or do you fear you are not only disappointing yourself, but others as well? Why?...


Please join me today at a life overseas: the misions conversation where I discuss a common pitfall, at least for me - trying to make sure I "measure up" to some impossible and idealistic standard. 

And be sure to hop right in to the conversation. Hope to see you there!

Encountering Jesus - When I just can't figure it out?

   Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 
     Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 
     Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 
     “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3.1-21)

The first week back to class this semester, I gave my 7th graders a very challenging math assignment. We worked on those twenty-one problems all week in class and then I had them finish the assignment as homework homework over the weekend. I'd used this assignment before; this time, however, I had several comments and complaints - not just from students, but also parents frustrated with the level of algebra required to solve several of the problems. They felt it was simply way too difficult for their math level. 

I disagreed, because the actual math required to solve the problems was not difficult if you approached them as riddles, looking for the single, specific clue. Most, however, wanted a formula. They wanted variables neatly given and easily identifiable, obviously to be plugged directly into some sort of equation or system of equations that they could then solve.

Truly, you could arrive at the correct solution that way. And that did require an understanding of algebra and an ability to manipulate of variables far beyond the ability of most of that group of 7th graders, not to mention the potential for mistakes or careless mathematical errors. I mean, I'm the teacher - I actually did take several college level math courses, and I was hard-pressed to solve the problems using that strategy. I could see  the equations I needed to set up and begin solving for the variables, but I'd get bogged down as I plugged through the math...

The crazy thing with this particular assignment? I'd ask the kids questions to get them thinking about the problem, to try and narrow their focus to a couple of key details, to help them see that most important detail. With some of the  students, that was all it took. The light switch flipped and they were off and running towards the correct answer. Others needed to be shown that most important and very specific bit of information before they were able to begin successfully working toward the solution. A few needed a picture or diagram drawn to really understand how and why that piece of information was relevant. But once the key detail was clear, students thought about it for a few seconds... or minutes... and looked at the whole picture of what the problem was asking, most were able to arrive at the correct response.

The Pharisees were notorious for their "formulas." They had a carefully prescribed, very detailed and complicated system all worked out to earn righteousness. I wonder if Nicodemus was all caught up trying to solve life's great challenges... life's greatest challenge... by following these formulas - yet the answers he found never satisfied and he knew he was still missing something key, the real answer that made sense and settled in inquietude in his heart. 

Nicodemus didn't even need to verbalize the question; Jesus knew.

Jesus immediately points out that key piece: It's not additional rules or different rules. It IS being born a second time - born again to a new life in the Spirit, a life found only in the light of Christ. There isn't a specific, detailed formula to follow requiring all sorts of manipulations for matriculation. That was the Pharisaical system and it didn't work. It left people confused, dissatisfied and incomplete - always wondering if they'd done enough... and they knew it. So they'd try to work more frantically, become more exclusive... and ultimately more frustrated.

Eventually, some (just like my students with that math assignment) simply stop trying and give up. They get angry and fuss about unfairness. They complain that what is required is just too hard. Nicodemus knew this frustration - but I don't think he was willing to stop wrestling. He knew that the stakes were too high.

Nicodemus sought out Jesus. He knew he needed an encounter with this unfathomable man and teacher. 

Jesus gave Nicodemus the key or the clue he was missing, but it didn't make sense, at least not at first.

The Biblical text is never totally clear as to Nicodemus' response. I have a feeling, though, that he finally got it. He is mentioned with Joseph of Arimathea as one of two who retrieved the body of Christ from the cross and laid him in the tomb... 

What do you think? How do you encounter Jesus as you read this section of John 3?

Do you ever get tired of reading this story in the Bible? 
Do you ever find yourself struggling to understand it?

How do you apply these words, not simply to a moment in time, 
but to daily life with Christ?

For what it's worth? These chameleon photos really have nothing to do with the theme of this post.
I just thought they were really cool, and have been wanting to post them for awhile. 
We snapped these photos one morning when Tim came home from dropping the kids at school,
and found Butterscotch (one of our dogs) worrying the reptile.
He was one mad and scared saurian.
He was one  furiously angry lizard!
That's why he is so black/blue in these photos.
We rescued him by shoving him high into a tree. 
this week's gratitude list
(#'s 3557 - 3571)

good news about a health question - from a friend at home

another week, no incidents

a super long Sunday afternoon nap after an exhausting week

great birthday party on Saturday

homemade orange sherbet

much needed conversations in regards to a student at school

more sorting and listing and decluttering accomplished

my comfort with French and the culture here - otherwise all the police checks would be terrifying and I'd simply never leave the house

really yummy ragout made by Tim for Sunday dinner

Saturday night bingo with the dorm... and a game of banana-grams, too

Elsie Mae continues to move forward with her reading

doctor helping us work through M&M's mysterious, recurring fevers

Brendan's focusing his plans for the future

finding some decent Western style clothing - that hasn't been "niger-ezed" yet - warm enough for our vacation in Scotland this summer

listening to Tim skype with our nieces back home

Ten most recent posts in this series:

Click here for all titles and their corresponding links in the Encountering Jesus series.


Related Posts with Thumbnails