Just a thought or two

                                                                                                  by Marla Bentien

multiple choices                            nov.29th

Way back there, in my college days, I remember well those final exams. As long as they didn’t ask essay-type questions, I usually did fairly well. I could memorize up a storm for that one big test, but don’t bother to ask me about it a few weeks later. The information had most likely disappeared. (Well, I had to make room for the next semester!)

I recall one class where the professor gave us pages and pages of multiple choice questions to study for the final. These were copies of tests or quizzes that we had already seen during the semester, so we had the answers, we just had to remember the correct one! I have always been what you might call a low-energy person. Not an easy thing to live with, but it does come in handy on occasion: I look for the path of least resistance.

I remember feeling overwhelmed as I tried to study over 100 multiple choice questions, and I wondered how in the world I would ever be able to remember it all. And then suddenly that path I needed opened up to me: I would focus only on the correct answer, not bothering to look at the choices, and not even the questions. Like a banker able to recognize a counterfeit dollar bill, I would be so familiar with the correct answer that I could easily spot it and ignore everything else.

Well, it worked! I can’t tell you how much fun it was to walk into that final class, sit down, whip through the answers, and waltz out within a few minutes time, leaving my classmates in the dust…exceedingly confident in my accomplishment! (How I wonder what they thought.)

In this world that we are part of, there are clamoring voices and opinions, differing beliefs and worldviews. The din seems to grow by the day, and I don’t know about you but I get weary and overwhelmed. I have a deep desire to bury not only my head, but all of me, in the proverbial sand. Instead, I need to stay somewhat informed and knowledgeable about what’s going on, while keeping my focus on God and His truth. There are “multiple choices” in this life, but if I know God’s Word, and spend time with Him and with His people, I will have a foundation of confidence to choose the “correct answer” and let others fall away.

thank who?           November 22nd

The American tradition of Thanksgiving is such a lovely celebration, in spite of current voices that try to tell us that its history is really a horrible thing that we must feel shameful about. But I won’t get into that!

There’s no way to miss the obvious purpose of Thanksgiving unless you change the name of the holiday. I do enjoy that tasty turkey, but it isn’t “Turkey Day.” It’s a day to give thanks. I know some families who go around the table and tell what they are grateful for. What an uplifting thing to do, something we could practice more often.

But I’m wondering, who is the YOU in “Thank You”? Giving thanks requires an object. A common refrain is “I’m so grateful for my health and my family.” Wonderful. Who are you grateful TO? The government? Yourself? Some powers floating around in the air somewhere? Buddha? Your education? Your bank account? Maybe a sports star or self-help guru?

Imagine if someone handed you a gift of $50,000, and without a word you turned and went and told all of your friends and acquaintances “I’m so grateful for this gift.” You can go around “gratituding” until you drop, but it has no meaning if you don’t thank the giver.

Many of our Founding Fathers knew Who to seek and Who to thank; Abraham Lincoln knew, too. During the middle of the Civil War, the weary president called a hurting and deeply divided nation to remember their blessings, in his Thanksgiving Proclamation:                                                                               “…These are the gracious gifts of the Most High God who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit…that they should be…gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens…to set apart and observe…a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

The Artist                                   November 15th

Once upon a time there was an average man who worked hard at his skill of making sculptures. It was a work he very much enjoyed even though no one seemed to take notice of his finished products. He knew the pieces he crafted were average, but he kept at it and improved year after year.

He had a dream of sculpting a master piece, the culmination of all of his skill and delight, time and effort. If he could create what he imagined in his mind and heart, all the years-the countless hours and solitary toil-would be worth it.

The aging man with aging hands paid attention to every detail, and lovingly formed his final and most beautiful piece. The day came when it was complete. He carefully hauled the life-sized statue to the town square, where he would proudly display it so others could share in his joy.

He stood just a few steps away from his creation and waited with anticipation in the warm sunlight. Before long, a crowd began to gather, and they marveled at the exquisite work of art before their eyes. They could hardly believe the detail, the form, the intricacies, the absolute breathtaking beauty. They had never seen anything to compare with this. No one, however, noticed the artist nearby; they did not even wonder who the remarkable creator of such a rare piece might be.

One by one, the people began to kneel before the statue in worship. The man was stunned, and through his tears clamored for their attention, to explain that he had made the statue. He wanted to spend time with the people, to share how he had lovingly created his masterpiece, and to share his joy with them. No one heard him. No one saw him. No one cared. They only wanted to adore the statue. They never knew nor honored the creator, and never shared his joy.

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised.” Romans 1:25

(Story based on a short mime performed by the drama students at Deep Valley Christian School more than 20 years ago. It made such an impression on me—how ridiculous it looked to worship the creation and ignore the Creator- that I have never forgotten it. Thank you Mrs. Phillips!)

that's not allowed                               nov. 8th

The Bible gives us a few clues as to what will be in Heaven. Personally, I don’t care much about a mansion or streets of gold, but at this stage of life I’m REALLY looking forward to that new body I’ve been promised!

Have you ever thought about what won’t be in Heaven? If you are ever in need of encouragement, start making a list. Of course, we know there won’t be any more pain, no tears, no death or separation, no sorrow or grieving, no sin. How’s that for a joy-inducer! Can you imagine a place with NO SIN? I get weary of sin all around me, not to mention dealing with my own sin day in and day out. What an incredible relief that will be to have that burden fully and forever eradicated…and then to live in a world of complete justice and goodness and righteousness.

Because our new Home will be a place of perfection, and filled with God’s glory and purity, we can be sure of many things that we won’t find there. Comedian and singer-songwriter Tim Lovelace, shares his thoughts in “Everything That Won’t Be There”: There won’t be any headaches, backaches or stomachaches, no arthritis or aching knees, no age spots, and no need for reading glasses. There won’t be any poison oak, or weeds, or lawn to mow. No bites from ticks, fleas or mosquitos, and no ants to ruin the picnic. There won’t be any phones or telemarketers, no locks on our doors and no junk mail to deal with. We won’t have to worry about calories (I really like to thank about that one!) or diets or treadmills or bunyons. There won’t be any need for the IRS, and we’ll never again hear the dentist’s drill. And…there…will…be…no…more…time!!

The power of life and death       Nov. 1st

I’ve never been good with words, a fact that has been a lifelong frustration. Not only do I struggle with timidity, but the words that I want don’t come out of my mouth when I want them to. I usually figure out what I should have said about a week after the fact.

Still, I like words. As a young girl, I collected books even though I rarely read them. I somehow felt comforted by their mere presence (as long as they weren’t school books, that is). I write better than I speak (I hope) because I have the time to think through my choices of words.

A few years back I had a sudden realization of how important and powerful words actually are. To tell the truth, it scared me because I feel so inadequate. How I admire those who can speak with ease and precision!

Prolific Christian author Randy Alcorn says this in his book, Seeing the Unseen: “The power of the words we speak is far greater than we realize. ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue.’ (Proverbs 18:21)… No conversation should be on autopilot. We need to ask for  (God’s) guidance, His wisdom, and His empowerment so our words please Him and so we will not have to account for careless words on the Day of Judgment. If we want our words to have lasting value and impact, they need to be touched and shaped by God’s words.”

That’s a frightening reality to me. And so I will continue my frequent prayer from Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

 be a noah                          October 25th

What’s the opposite of gratitude? A dictionary might tell us “ingratitude” or “unthankful.” If you are thankful, you express gratitude or appreciation. If you are not thankful, perhaps you just don’t say anything at all. So practically speaking, I think we could say the opposite of gratitude is to complain.

Why is it so easy to complain? I try hard to be a grateful person, but still…am I the only one who hears gripes and grumbles slip out of my mouth without any effort whatsoever?

Our pastor shared a lot of good insights with us when he taught on Noah, but the one thing I remember (sorry, Pastor) is that there is no record of Noah ever complaining or even questioning God.

I sure would like to have a long chat with Noah and find out how he did it. (Actually, I’d love to talk with Mrs. Noah!) Considering what he was asked to do, it’s absolutely astonishing. Putting myself in his place, I think I’d have plenty to complain about or at least oodles of questions, such as “Rain?” What’s that? It must have been beyond hard to take the taunts and ridicule from friends and neighbors year after year after year, not to mention hearing their cries for help as the flood waters rose.

But no matte the circumstance, God gets extremely serious when it comes to complaining. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were constant “grumblers” even thought they had front row seats to some incredible miracles. The Lord finally got fed up with all their griping and told them in Numbers 14 that all the complainers over 20 years old would die in the desert, never to enter the Promised Land.

Perhaps Noah was called “righteous” and “blameless” for exactly this reason: he didn’t gripe and grumble even in the face of suffering, hardship, and the unknown. I want to be like Noah. Listen to how Paul puts it in Philippians 2:14-15: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation…”