The “Kenge” Craze at School!

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Yesterday, I woke up thinking that the day would be a normal school day. (I don’t know why I keep thinking that…)

Classes started and all was going well until our morning break time… I walked over to my house (all of 20 feet away from the school…talk about a GREAT commute!) and suddenly I heard one of the other teachers calling for me through my window. “Matt,” he said, “come outside but do NOT use your back door. You must go out another way.” So, naturally, I walked straight to the back door and slowly opened it up. Lo and behold, in the potted plants next to my door hid my long-lost friend, “Mr. Monitor Lizard!”

We first met back in March when he was sun-bathing on my neighbor’s woodpile. Since then the wood was removed and a fence was built so I wondered what had happened to my reptilian rafiki. So 1 month after our last meeting he came to pay his respects. Joining him, though, was about half the school standing in my back yard staring in my direction along with the pastor snapping pictures of the Kenge craziness happening. I finally convinced the students to return to their classrooms and NOT to stone my good buddy Mr. Kenge. Then I quickly moved to my bedroom to fetch my own camera for some up-close glamour shots! (Free of charge too!) Of course…when I returned he was gone! But then, I noticed something round the corner of my house. The chase began…

Over the porch and through the neighbor’s garden, towards the Pre-Schoolers, Mr. Kenge went! Fearing the panic of a 2-3 foot lizard entering an area of FIFTY 3-4 foot pre-schoolers, I quickly routed him away from them towards the school’s kitchen. I called out to Mama Josephina, our incredible cook, and gave her the heads-up of her incoming assistant. She helped me to keep it moving away from the children then it passed between us away from the pre-schoolers, away from my house…and towards the very center of our school!

Following him, he finally climbed up a tree between our school office and the classrooms and settled on one of the highest branches. During lunch the area below the tree was covered in curious but nervous students who dared for a closer look. A few of the 1st graders didn’t adher to my “No Stoning!” rule… Fortunately though, they are 1st graders and their throws never reached the kenge. My friend remained “on high” until well after school. When I returned to the school that evening, I was very saddened to see the ground COVERED in rocks below that tree but another teacher assured me that he actually chased it away instead of simply killing it… I hope he was right…

None the less, “Mr. Kenge” is a fantastic specimen and a nice neighbor that kept my yard free of mice and rats. I hope we meet again!

Tough News for Moses…

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After reading through a good chunk of the Old Testament (Exodus — 2 Kings) I’ve realized… Moses had a really tough life. Yes, we’ve heard of his burning bush encounter, his victory over and out of Egypt, the Ten Commandments and his “mountain-top experience,” his leadership to the Promised Land and much more but it wasn’t easy for our Holy Land hero…

Exodus 4:10 shares with us his speech struggles which might impede on his new assignment to speak to Pharaoh and free all of God’s people. It’s so bad that Moses begs God to send someone else. (We always want to pass off the difficult stuff in life to others, don’t we?) God allows Aaron to join Moses with their proposed  exodus and the journey begins…

I can’t imagine the pains, fears and frustrations of leading a group of people into desert and wilderness. Hunger, thirst, exhaustion, uncertainty for what lies ahead or perhaps regret for what was left behind… And Moses was everyone’s favorite Customer Service Representative receiving the people’s complaints to God. Even Moses had his moments of desperation and fatigue. Moses pleads to God in Numbers 11:14, “I can not carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin.” Wow. Fortunately, God helps him out but the load of responsibilities was still far too great for one man…

And just when things couldn’t get any worse, God informs Moses of his failure to remain devoted wholeheartedly to God in order to faithfully lead the people. Because Moses broke his faith and negatively influenced the Israelites, God decided to show Moses the Promised Land from a hill top but share with him the bad news…that he would not be entering into the Promised Land with his people. Now THAT would be terrible news to receive!!! You’re being told that you will be stopping just shy of your life’s objective only to let everyone else BUT you enter the land flowing of milk and honey. Moses had it bad but that didn’t stop him from continuing to serve the Lord, did it?

Why am I bringing up all the terrible parts of Moses’ life? (I actually asked myself that same question when I felt compelled to write this story.)  I’m really not a pessimist. Then I realized something. Reading through the challenging parts of Moses’ life and ministry reminded me that faith isn’t easy, that God is always present and faithful to God’s followers, and that struggles help us to treasure the good moments in our life. These struggles also remind us that God and God’s will are worth the pain and suffering that we will indeed encounter in life.

Like them or not, our trials and tribulations help define us. However… it isn’t the suffering in-and-of itself that defines us but how we respond to it.

May your life be filled with joy instead of sorrow.
But when the sorrows come, may you find the strength and wisdom to offer a hope-filled and faithful response.

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So recently I had re-read Exodus 32:9-14 and found myself completely dumbfounded. Despite how the people of Israel treated him and his awareness that he wasn’t going to actually be entered the Promised Land himself, he still stood his ground before God and pleaded for the lives of the Israelites. Psalm 106 speaks of this act of compassion quite eloquently…

“They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved them […] So he said he would destroy them–had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before them to keep his wrath from destroying them.”   -Psalm 106:20-23

WOW! I love the added snippet “which eats grass” which further exaggerates the ridiculousness of the Israelites’ idols. Through it all, Moses’ character is proven true and we’re presented with another fine example of how compassion and love must always reign in our lives despite our condition or mood.

 

I hope your life is focused more of God’s love than things that eat grass. Let these [paraphrased] words from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ring true for your own life:

I always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in my prayers. I continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ… 

 

Making Sense of the Bible…

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This story idea came to me during college while daydreaming in a photography class. I stumbled across this verse that completely altered my perspective on perceiving life’s pictures.

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. -Matthew 20:29:34 (Italics and Bold mine)

Like many things, I had taken for granted my sight and not seen it as the incredible and beautiful gift that it is! The (formerly) blind men received his sight, praised God and literally changed the way he looked at life. What blinds your life? What sights would you miss if you become blind…right now?

*These men’s lives were proof that believing isn’t always seeing.*

The second time the senses significantly spoke to me from the Bible was this past February. I was at the Pastor’s house one evening as we continued reading our way through the Old Testament, a chapter at a time. One sense that struck me was a warrior named Naaman’s healing from leprosy. Hoping to rid himself of this disease he sought Elisha the prophet for a dramatic and inspirational Oscar-award nominating miracle. “Dip yourself 7 times in the Jordan River,” was all that Elisha offered… (and not even face-to-face but through a messenger!) I’d be upset and doubtful too if my cure was to go swimming a few times in a big creek. Gee, thanks Elisha!?

But God likes to work in the small and the unexpected. God shows us that even with seemingly insignificant people and places, greatness still happens. Reluctantly, Naaman’s body touched the Jordan River 7 times and the impossible… became past tense. It happened. This story reminds us that our senses are essentially miniature miracles. Each soft rain that brushes our skin, each remarkable sunset that leaves one speechless, each fresh fruit that puts our taste buds on a roller coaster of AWESOME…even the very sound of a loved one that instantly delivers a smile. We experience miracles every day. Do you sense them?

I could go on and on in great detail about the different senses in the Bible…but that’d be senseless so I’ll spare you. There are passionate prayers pleading for God to hear and act. There are angel-sightings followed by the calming words, “Do not fear…” The smells of burnt offerings and fragrance on the altars of the Old Testament. The Last Supper, a lasting reminder of Christ in bread and wine, overwhelms the senses to taste and see that the Lord is good then speak this good news into the ears of others. They saw the tomb of Jesus…empty! We, one day, shall hears the angels sing…Hosanna! The morning dew transformed into bread and Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine to keep the wedding going! One woman merely touched the corner of Jesus’ robe and was healed. Moses even saw a burning bush and heard God talk THROUGH it!

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.[…]We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.”
-1  John 1:1, 3

The senses enrich our understanding of the Bible and give emotion and meaning to our very lives as well. I read in a devotional recently that the senses are all relational abilities. For one to hear, someone or something else must speak. Something must give off an aroma for it to be smelled. There must be Life to experience if we expect to sense anything. It is through our senses that we relate to the world, to each other and to God. Take the time to cherish and also utilize your senses to develop the relationships in your life. They are gifts not to be used seldomly.
Corny as it is, maybe it’s true that because we have two ears and but one mouth we ought to use our sense of hearing twice as much as our mouth for talking. …….. so, LISTEN UP!

May you taste and know that the Lord is good.
May you hear your calling to touch others’ lives with the love and peace of God.
May you see the beauty around you and speak with thanksgiving and awe to God, the epitome of Love.

(Since I sense that my story of making sense of the Bible has come to an end, I’ll just stop here…)

Nothin’ but a Walkin’ and Talkin’ Chalk!

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Maybe this story is a result of too much time in the classroom. (Or perhaps it is derived from the inhalation of too much chalk dust…) Regardless, I’ve come to a conclusion that we, “humanity,” are merely pieces of chalk.

Humans, like chalk, are fragile. Our bones break. Our skin wrinkles and bruises. But also like chalk, we have the potential to write incredible stories sharing them with others. As we write our stories a part of us remains with those who “read” our story. Eventually, our chalk is finished. From the dust we were made and to dust we shall return.

But can chalk use itself to write well? If you place a piece of chalk on a table, it will only make a few marks from rolling around that won’t even pass as legible. However, whenever the chalk is placed in the hands of a painter, a composer or a rocket scientist…INCREDIBLE and BEAUTIFUL things can be done. Placing our stories, our chalk, in the hands of God allows for a truly remarkable and meaningful story to be written.

The last piece of my mind I’d like to stick with you is, like chalk,  there will come a time when we are all used up. The chalk eventually runs out and all that remains are traces of the chalk’s existence lingering on the edges of the blackboard. Thinking like chalk helps prioritize the parts of one’s life to focus on what truly matters…what we really want written on our storyboard. What our chalk writes in stories and lessons impacts all those around us.

So let your life be “chalk-full” with stories of love, peace, forgiveness and compassion.
And when you’re down to the final stub of your chalk…
you will know that it was well-spent for God and for others.