The Spur

It must have looked like this was an important prisoner. He was guarded by two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen. They had heard there were men who wanted him dead, so they had taken measures to assure his safety. He was, after all, a Roman citizen. When they arrived without incident at their destination, the man was handed over to the Roman governor of the province. His trial lasted only long enough for two witnesses to make their statements and for the prisoner himself to plead his innocence. There really was not enough evidence to imprison the man, but the governor, the 'most excellent Felix? (Acts 24:3), put the prisoner, the apostle Paul, under house arrest.

From time to time Felix would have Paul brought before him and the apostle would tell him about ?righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come? (Acts 24:25). Many times he talked with Felix about faith in Jesus Christ. Felix heard Paul's story, listened to his discourse. At times he was afraid and sent him away. But he kept calling him back. He kept calling him back over a period of two years!

As I read this story in the book of Acts, I wondered about the battle that must have been going on in that Roman governor's mind and soul. He heard the words of truth, but, sadly, there was . . .
?We?ll see,? I said, and heard my daughter sigh. She knew what that meant, just as I knew when my mother said it to me when I was her age. It meant the answer was probably ?no.? It meant my mother didn't want to come right out and say that word, but was leaning strongly in that direction. It meant she had some serious doubts about letting me do whatever it was I had requested. It meant she'd talk it over with my dad and then have the added weight and authority of his ?no? to back her up. When my mother said, ?We?ll see,? it meant we wouldn't.

Sometimes it feels like God is doing that. He won't give a direct answer, but we can tell we are not going to like it when He does. Sometimes, as we wait for the answer, we have little hope that things will turn out the way we would like them to. We are reluctant to believe that God wants to say, ?yes.? We see him as a parent whose lips are permanently shaped in the form of the ?n? word.

But God's letter to us, the letter that was written down thousands of years ago, tells us differently. The Scriptures tell us that God sings over us and delights in us. He longs to give us good things. He tried to convince His disciples of this when he walked and talked with them while he was on earth. Jesus said ? ?Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are . . .
The mass of bodies looks almost like a large boulder sitting in the midst of the white Antarctic landscape, but as the camera moves in it becomes obvious that it is a living thing ? a huddle of penguins. We watched The March of the Penguins a few nights ago and as we did we understood what all the fuss has been about. The film is a delight and an awe-inspiring record of God's amazing design in creation.

One scene in the film ? the one described above ? made me smile. The huddle of bodies are all male. They look like a large boulder because they have their heads tucked in to keep warm. They are carrying their offspring around on their feet, covered by a protective flap of skin and fur that keeps out the sub-zero temperatures. They are waiting for their mates to return with the food that will keep the tiny ones alive. They have to wait for several long months. In the meantime the males have saved a pocket of nourishment for the babies. It is enough to keep them alive until the females come.

The scene that made me smile was the one where they show the females returning. Suddenly the rounded boulder-like shape moves and all the heads pop up. Then the noise begins as fathers and babies begin to trumpet so that their mates can find them. The resulting cacophony made me . . .
I recently read an article that was all about buying a red purse. No, it wasn't in a fashion magazine. The woman described how, as she bought it, she ridiculed herself ? ?You?ll never have the courage to use it!? her interior voice said. And sure enough, the purse sat in the shopping bag for a long time. But then one day the woman took it out and looked at it. She really liked that purse. Why was she so afraid to use it? She concluded that she was afraid of calling attention to herself, afraid that people would think she was too outlandish, that she was showing off. But she just liked the purse. So she determined to use it. Her conclusion was that life was too short to live it by other people's opinions. She wanted to be who she was, not who other people wanted her to be. I think we can all identify.

I have an orange sweater in my closet. I liked it instantly when I took it off the rack in the shop, but I've never worn it. It's very bright. Too bright for a Canadian winter. Have you noticed how we all wear dark browns, blues, greens and black through the winter? That became strongly apparent to me when we arrived home from Papua New Guinea in the middle of December a few years ago. I had gotten used to all the tropical colours ? vibrant reds, purples, oranges ? and groaned at the lack of colour here. But what was the first thing I bought? A dark green winter coat! I think it's the chameleon syndrome. We all want to blend in. None of us wants to . . .
It was very early on a Saturday morning and I could hear my sister, Leisha, already rattling around in the kitchen, making coffee. By the time I got downstairs she was pouring the hot liquid into a thermos. A map of the town was on the counter and a strip of newspaper lay beside it with things highlighted and circled.

My sister is a very organized garage sale enthusiast and having someone to go along that day seemed to spur her on. We set off with anticipation and it wasn't long before her early-bird-gets-the-worm philosophy paid off. We were poking around in a large garage full of interesting stuff when I spotted a large oval mirror. It was covered in a thick layer of dirt but it looked like it was about the size and shape that Leisha had said she wanted for above the fireplace in their home. I called her attention to it. She pulled it out and her eyes lit up. Then the negotiating started with the owner. I was amazed at how low the price went and Leisha was beaming as she walked away with the deal of the day.

It was some time before I was able to visit again, and when I did, Leisha immediately called my attention to the space above the mantle on their fireplace. My jaw dropped. The old mirror we'd found in that garage was beveled and the frame was solid oak. My brother-in-law had done a great job restoring it. It looked beautiful.

The great thing about the mirror was . . .

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