And Coming...

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden" is an allegory for children of all ages, written and illustrated by Ellen Gillette. Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at

Monday, June 29, 2009

June 29, 2009 Hearing God's Will for Yourself

Many things seem uncertain at 18, but the summer I was that illustrious age, I was more certain of one thing than—barring the importance of commitment of Jesus Christ—I’d ever been in my life. It was God’s will for me to marry a young man I hardly knew.

My mother was incredulous—God had told her I’d marry another young man. Not only that, God had told him. But he hadn’t told me.

A week later, we were engaged (with my parent’s blessings). Three months later we were married. Thirty-three years, four children, a son-in-law, three grandchildren, and incredible ups and downs later, we’re still Mr. and Mrs. David Gillette.

All that to say…it’s important to hear the word of the Lord for yourself, and to act upon it.

In 1 Kings 13, we read about a man who should’ve known that. We’re told only that he was a “man of God”—and if you were going to be known for one thing, that’s a good one.

He went to King Jeroboam to deliver the word of the Lord, but it didn’t go well. When the king stretched out his hand, calling for the man’s arrest, his hand shriveled up. Amazing how a useless limb will grab your attention! The king asked the man of God to pray for him, and was healed.

“Come have dinner,” the king said. “I’ll give you a gift.”

“Not even if you offered half your kingdom.” Apparently the Lord had commanded him not to eat or drink until he arrived home by a different route.

Enter a prophet—one would assume another “man of God” with such a title, but even prophets get it wrong occasionally—who’d heard about the drama of the day. He chased the man down, inviting him to a meal. Perhaps he wanted to pick his brain about palace intrigue, or was going through a dry spell and wanted a fill-up for his spiritual tank. The man of God again refused, giving the same reason.

“But I’m a prophet too!” the old prophet said. “An angel told me to bring you home for bread and water!” The man of God let himself be dazzled by prophet’s apparent spiritual maturity, his advanced age, the smoothness and excitement of the lie. An angel…

Amazingly, as the two ate, the word of the Lord came, not to the man of God, but to the lying prophet: “The Lord says that because you defied his word to you, your body won’t be buried in the tomb of your fathers.”

Who worries about his burial place? He’d gotten a word from God to deliver to the king! So he messed up a little…what did it matter where he was buried?

As he traveled that very day, however, a lion killed him on the road. Didn’t eat him, just killed him, then stood there guarding the body. When the prophet heard what happened, he knew right away who the victim was. He retrieved the body, burying the man in his own tomb. “When I die,” he told his sons, “bury me with the man of God, for the words he spoke will come to pass.”
One would hope that he also repented for his part in the tragedy.

The point is that we can easily be swayed by people of position, title, influence, wealth, or academic superiority. The word of God, whether the written logos word in Bible form, or the personal rhema word the Holy Spirit speaks to the heart, is important. When we are certain of its application in our own lives, we need to honor it, regardless of popular opinion.

Commit to a life of obedience, and it becomes God’s job to move mountains to make sure you understand his will… your job to trust and obey. Permission to reprint with acknowledgement of source.

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 15, 2009 The High Standard of Honesty

“I hate this problem I’m having with lying,” Phil told the pastor.

“But you don’t hate lying,” the pastor replied.

Point well taken. If we truly hate something, we usually stop. If we tolerate sin in our lives, however, we will search far and wide, high and low, for ways to justify it, skating around the possibility of harsh consequences. As speaker Doug Easterday says, Christians don’t usually fall into sin, we jump into it…like kids jumping into a pile of autumn leaves. Wheee….

It has been said that “A lie does not sacrifice a truth, but THE truth.” The Bible tells us that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Jesus is called the Truth (John 14:6). “Thou shalt not lie” is one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16). It is obvious, then, that people of faith are to be honest. Honesty isn’t just the best policy; it’s the only policy for Christians. 100% honesty, 100% of the time. No using stamps from the office for personal mail just this once. No “white lie” about one’s whereabouts last Thursday evening.

Is honesty a problem in the church? I dare say it is. Perhaps attendance numbers are inflated on a report, or a sermon is appropriated, word for word, from the Internet without giving honor where it is due (Romans 13:7). Perhaps someone speaks an untruth to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. But when we discover that a brother or sister has lied to us, we feel let down. If he or she lied about that, what else can we not trust?

I used to pride myself (pride being the red flag here) on my honesty. A friend once called me “stupid honest” because he thought my commitment to telling the truth went beyond reason—even when I would get in trouble, when truth would hurt someone, etc. Maybe I told the truth, but I was not a person of truth—in fact, I was quite deceptive in the way I manipulated questions and answers, or followed the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit.

One example from my teenaged years –my parents set a rule that I was not to be alone with my boyfriend at our house or at his house…so we went to his grandmother’s (vacant) house! I could “honestly” say I obeyed the rule, but clearly, honesty was not what was on my mind at the time.

As I’ve walked a little further down the narrow road that keeps getting narrower, the Holy Spirit has shone his light with increasing intensity on that tendency, or at least willingness, to hedge while also teaching me about the difference between facts and truth. The standard hasn’t changed—never changes—but the degree of personal accountability has.

Recently I had a fresh lesson: While in town, I realized that I had a government check of my daughter’s from recent mail which needed cashing. She hadn’t signed it yet, but since I have power of attorney I thought nothing of signing it, then endorsing it with my own name. Everything would have been copacetic had the teller not been so specific. “Did she sign the back?” she asked…quite efficiently. I replied in the affirmative…and beat myself up about all the way home. I tried to rationalize that my daughter wanted the cash, had no problem with my signing it, etc., etc., but the fact that I had been asked, pointblank, and…lied, let’s face it…continued to nag me.

I don’t know about you, but I live with too much external stress I can do nothing whatsoever about, to endure one iota of personally-generated stress I can offload by a simple action. I want a clear conscience—even if the particulars don’t really matter, my heart DOES matter. The next time I was in the bank, I took the teller aside, explained the situation, and apologized. “As a Christian, I believe it’s important to be honest,” I told her, “and I wasn’t completely honest with you.”

Whether she thought I was noble, or stupid, or an alien dropped off from another planet, I have no idea, nor do I really care. Clearing my conscience was for ME (and to please my Father), not for anyone else sake. (Of course, the fact that I work for a church and am known to attend another could have also reflected poorly at a corporate level, as could any wrong action by a particular “Christian” reflect on other Christians in general).

Keep short accounts with God—why let that nagging sensation of wrongdoing have time to fester? We’ll always be learning, always blow it, always have new areas for that Holy Spirit spotlight to shine. The idea is to acknowledge…then act. Over and done with, now on to the next lesson.

The other side of the truth issue? The difference between facts and truth…I’ll leave that for another time.

Some portions of this blog first appeared in Baaad Sheep—When God’s People Let You Down by Ellen Gillette (Carepoint Publishing, 2007), ISBN-13:978-0-9792-0893-5.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1, 2009

I’ve been at battle in the only clump of trees on our property, having built a home on what used to be a tobacco field. One little clump of trees (some old and tall, however), with a pile of bricks from an old chimney and vines of such number that they call to mind Genesis 15’s promise to Abram: "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to number them...So shall thy seed be...” I chop down one, only to find five more hiding under a branch.

Day One: armed only with a hoe, gardening gloves, and no little amount of anger, I attacked. The result? Three good-sized piles of vines, a broken hoe, and a road map of bleeding scratches on arms and legs.

Day Two: new hoe, new hedge trimmers, suede gloves. Better results, less injuries to hands. Arms and legs show further abuse. A bottle of weed killer held in reserve for drier, less windy conditions.

Day Three: Progress beginning to be evident (i.e. husband noticed).

Day Four: hasn’t happened at time of writing due to other obligations. Strategizing sessions have determined to add knee-high boots to armor, but decision made against burning the suckers out for fear of incinerating “friendlies.”

The enemy? Ironically named smilacaceae, perhaps to lull attackers into a false sense of security, they’re commonly known as cat briers, greenbriers, and a few other names the pastor would probably edit out. At any rate, they make me do anything but smile. Woody, thorny vines, they grow quickly, wrapping around anything available, and would, no doubt, choke out all life were it not for the seasonal interruption of winter that kills them back as well.

The thing is, they look good! Lush, verdant additions to the panorama. As long as you leave them alone, they fill in the empty spaces with greenery at an alarming rate…making the entire area inaccessible to all but the smallest of critters and insects.

A spiritual application cries out to be made.

There are thorny vines in all our lives-- habits, attitudes, patterns, unnecessary activities, even people, who infiltrate the environment, insinuating themselves into our time and energy, robbing us of our power and effectiveness. They may even look helpful and attractive, just as the vines do…from a distance.

Wishing they weren’t there, complaining about their existence, moaning about the should’ve’s and could’ve’s will do diddly-squat to stopping the onslaught. Dancing around them with flip-flops and pitiful cotton gloves will only end up with a bloody mess (our blood, too). Sometimes we need boots. Sharp instruments such as the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Killer chemicals such as repentance. Righteous anger’s power from the same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead, at work in us.

There is a time for Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild. But there’s also a time for the unleashing of God’s wrath on what is ungodly and harmful in our lives, even if the cost is personal: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). Just as I am compelled to attack those vines, so should we be compelled by God’s Spirit to remove the sin and all things counter-productive to his purposes:

“Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfect or of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 1b-2, NRSV).

Total eradication is the goal. Out, out! foul vine.