Personal Ramblings, Spiritual Musings

just a little is sometimes all it takes

Question: Suppose Americans cut down the amount of meat they eat by 10% and replace the 10% with grains and soybeans, how many starving people do you think the money saved would feed?

Answer: 60 million people. (Americans eat a lot! The per capita consumption of peanut butter alone in the US and Canada is five pounds annually)

Something to think about: Giving back a little goes a long way. Tithing is about sharing blessings. 10% is really not much when you think about the 90% you have left. But what a difference the 10% can make!

“Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple, so that there will be plenty of food there. Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good thing.” Malachi 3:10


Reading Life Between the Lines, Spiritual Musings

measuring life with potato chips and cheesecake

My first few months of missionary life in Nepal were awful. I felt trapped, imprisoned and deprived of necessities like heat in my home, television sitcoms, hot showers, high speed interne, and people who used deodorant. But most of all I was outraged that there was no potato chips or cheesecake. Unable to imagine six years without potato chips and cheesecake, I was an extremely grumpy servant of the Lord.

And then one frigidly cold Friday night, wearing three pairs of woolen socks and wrapped in a thick blanket, I read about Polycarp – A disciple of Apostle John, he was arrested when the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, was persecuting Christians. During the trial, Polycarp was told that the only way to get his freedom was to give up Christ. In response, Polycarp said Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did my any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? Polycarp’s allegiance to his Lord cost him his life. His was bound like a sacrificial lamb and set on fire.  While the flames rose around him, Polycarp looked up into the heavens and said I give You thanks that You have counted me worthy of this day and this hour.

Polycarp made me look and feel like a selfish, whiny crybaby. I gave myself a good mental spanking and vowed to make the most of my six years. The result – I’d go back for another six years if I could! And I’ll always remember that by the second year there was both potato chips AND cheesecake in Nepal!

Reading Life Between the Lines, Spiritual Musings

jenny and the judges

What happened, when I was 14, to the family that lived behind our home and how my mother reacted to the whole drama taught me a lesson in Christian living.

The family consisted of a single mother and her two daughters, Mary and Jenny. Mary was quiet, complacent and obedient. Jenny was head-strong, opinionated, and a bit on the wild side. It seemed like almost every day Jenny got into trouble for something or the other . . . It wasn’t like she broke the law, but she’d be sassy with the young pastor, talk back to the elders in our community, sneak out of vespers, come home late at night, wear revealing dresses.

One summer whisperings began: What was up with the billowy dresses Jenny was wearing these days? How come she stopped playing volleyball with the rest of the girls? Why was she putting on so much weight around her waist? And the story quickly grew as speculations, fabrications and wild imaginations concocted all kinds of scenarios. Being 14, I thrived for the next episode of Jenny and Her Bastard Child. So I asked my mother, the community socialite, to mingle and bring home the dirt. My mother looked at me, eyes filled with pain and disappointment. She said It doesn’t matter what the story is. What matters is that we are Jenny’s friends no matter what. It’s not our place to judge.

A few weeks later, Jenny was in the hospital having her baby. There was no baby shower, no gifts, no visitors. The only people there, besides Jenny’s mother and her sister, was my mother and I. Awkwardly, I stood while my mother held the baby girl. And Jenny cried as told us her story: She said she was married to a guy from Mauritius, but that he had to leave because his visa ran out. And that he promised to return.

As we walked home I asked my mother if she believed that ridiculous story. She gave me the same look and said, Even if the human in us doesn’t believe the story, we should accept her story as the truth. It’s not our place to judge.

From then on came the righteous moral blows from the community—She was not allowed to participate in church; she was ignored at community events; she was used as an example of what happens to bad teens. She couldn’t even get a job! It seemed like everyone wanted her gone. That is, everyone, except my mother. She was always there for Jenny, to help her, to defend her, to be her friend unconditionally. On the sidelines, I watched my mother and recognized the essence of Christ-likeness.

A year went by, two years, and then three. And, of course, there was no sign of the mysterious Mauritian husband. Jenny continued to struggle, shunned by her community. Then one summer day, out of nowhere, the Mauritian arrived with his own bizarre story—a clerical mix-up in immigration had sent him to prison and there had been no way for him to contact Jenny.

The happy, reunited family left for Mauritius as quickly as they could. And they never returned home. I waited for someone in the community to admit they had been wrong. Instead they justified their actions: What else could we do with no proof of a husband?

My mother’s response: We could have chosen to be like Jesus!

Spiritual Musings

for loot or love?

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22: 20, NIV)

Sky’s favorite thing to do as a toddler was to look through Grandma’s silk sarees. The brilliance of the bright colors and gold embroidery would keep her enthralled for hours. And she was ecstatic when she learned that all of them would be hers one day.

However, she did not understand why she couldn’t have them right away if they were all going to be hers any way. So it was obvious to us that it was time to discuss the subject of death and inheritance. Unfortunately, the discussion had no effect on her—She focused only on the loot and not on Grandma’s love. And with great impatience she’d ask us every day . . . When is Grandma going to die?!

The Bible ends with Jesus assuring us of two things: 1) His coming is a certainty; and 2) He is coming quickly. For sure, our response ought to be the same as John’s—Amen! Come, Lord Jesus. Yet we should revisit, every day, the reason behind our response. Is it a selfish one? Perhaps for the streets of gold, a life with pain or death?

Do we await the Second Coming for the loot or to be with the One we love?

Feature image by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

Spiritual Musings

celebrating our judgement

In 1978 Velma Barfield was arrested for murdering four people, including her mother and fiance. She was on death row, confined in a cell by herself. One night a prison guard tuned into a 24-hour Christian radio station. Down the gray hall, desperate and alone in her cell, Velma listened to the gospel message and accepted Jesus as her Saviour. The outside world began to hear about Velma Barfield and how she had changed.

During the six years she was on death row she ministered to many of her cellmates. Many were touched by the sadness of her story and the sincerity of her love for Christ as well as the beauty of her Christian witness in that prison. Just before her execution, Velma wrote “I know the Lord will give me dying grace, just as He gave me saving grace, and has given me living grace.”

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” On earth Velma Barfield paid the price for her crimes. The hideous nature of sin is that while we can be forgiven them and freed from them, we, like Velma Barfield, must still face the consequences of our sins. At least until Christ returns, sin is here to stay. Sin cannot be eradicated. And for being born into this world, each of us has a price to pay. This does not mean that we receive a death sentence the moment we are born. Although we cannot avoid the consequences of our sins, in Jesus we can overcome them. At the judgment hall, Jesus’ blood washes away our sins and clothes us in His righteousness.

Previously Published, Spiritual Musings

our lineage and what it means

(published 2006 in the Adventist Review)

When Tom Robinson, an amateur yet avid genealogist, sent a sample of his DNA to a bioarchaeology firm, the resulting discovery required more than a letter in the mail. Robinson received a personal phone call that informed him that he was a direct descendant of Ghengis Khan.

For some, genealogy is just a hobby; for most, it is a pastime that rapidly turns into an addiction. This obsession to trace and document one’s lineage is not a new fad—The Old Testament devotes large portions to genealogy. It is as though human beings are inherently driven to discover their roots—Finding and sifting through the lives of ancestors, in some unfathomable way, brings meaning to the living. Details of family history can heal wounds of an abandoned childhood, boost the low self-esteem of a dull and boring life, explain a harmful habit, justify attitudes and actions, or simply quell a yearning to answer the question Who am I?

Genealogy helps people understand who they are–Robinson’s connection to Ghengis Khan caused him to reflect on personal traits that could be a result of his lineage to this noteworthy world leader (albeit ruthless warrior)— his supervisory role at work and his ability to ride a horse.

For Christians, however, it takes more than family history to understand the significant slots into which we fit. Whether our research unveils a hero or a villain, who we are and what we are destined to be results not from DNA or genes or history, but from a lineage that connects us directly to Jesus Christ. We must remember that we are “all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:26 (NLT) With this knowledge in our hearts, we must live lives worthy of that connection to the Cross. We must live like children of God.

Spiritual Musings

stinger in the tongue

“For the despairing man, there should be kindness from his friend.”–Job 6:14, The New American Standard

Today a wasp got trapped in my living room. In desperation he dashed himself from window to ceiling to furniture. I could have simply and politely held the front door open and let him fly into freedom. But in my fear I began running around the room flailing at arms at him which didn’t help the situation. It ended when Roy came to my rescue with blue fly swatter and smacked the wasp against the window sill.

As I watched him twitching to death, I remembered another wasp incident many years ago. Wrinkles, our part Sharpei, part chow, part Lab, part whatever mutt of a dog, had just joined our family. A reject at the puppy farm she was way past puppyhood and well into the defiant puberty. She had a mind of her own and did as she pleased. Surrounded by woods, strange animals and insects, our home was doggy heaven. One muggy summer day a wasp that was trying to enter our home got smacked down by my husband and lay twitching on the porch. Wrinkles went diving towards the wasp. In spite of the many commands to “stay,” she lunged forward and took the dying wasp in her mouth. In desperation, the wasp attempted one last victory before being chewed to its death by Wrinkles. He stung Wrinkles in her tongue! With a yelp Wrinkles began running around in circles, alternatly grating her tongue against her front teeth and sticking her paw in her mouth. But the stinger was firmly and painfully implanted in her pink and black Sharpei-wannabe tongue. No way could she take the stinger out of her mouth by herself. It took three of us. Jez sat on her to hold her down and Roy held her mouth open while I used a pair of tweezers.

Some things we just can’t do by ourselves.

Spiritual Musings

stop. revive. survive. (serious lessons from our fun trip to australia)

For the very American Klines, going to Australia was like going to Mars. Our first day was an attempt to buy size 13 flip flops. When we discovered that flip flops was not part of the Australian vocabulary, we dug out words we shared with them to describe what we were shopping for–beach, footwear, rubber . . . . Suddenly, the salesperson lit up in understanding, pointed to our 6-ft, 270-pound son, and yelled to the other side of the store Do we have thongs in his size?

That was the first of many amusing oddities we discovered in Aussie-speak and Aussie-culture. Even their map was different; it was splattered with teacup icons that covered intersections and swallowed towns! So the superior American Klines poked fun at the Australian map–Looks like we take the road below the rim of the next saucer, one Kline said and the other Klines laughed.

Road signs were graphic and detailed too, insulting our intelligence and giving us more reason to ridicule the Australians.


Our favorite was Beware of Vehicles. What’s a vehicle doing on the road? Call the cops! It’s going to assault us, one Kline said and the other Klines laughed.

Besides the road signs giant billboards promoted safety with slogans like:

  • A microsleep can kill in a second.
  • How fast are you going now?
  • Fatigue will kill; take a break.
  • Double the fines; double the demerits.
  • Safe speeding, There’s no such thing.

This was merely more entertainment material to the sarcastic, need-no-advice-from-the–rest-of-the-world Klines. If we have an accident, it’ll be when we take our eyes of the road to read these billboards! one Kline said and the other Klines laughed.

We were having a wonderful time at the expense of the Aussies, when another unfamiliar, un-American sign by an exit caught our attention: Driver Reviver. It also sported the teacup icon on our map. Plus the word “free” on the sign was enough reason for the free-loading Klines to take the exit. Driver Reviver was a serene park where friendly volunteers offered travelers free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or water with bikkies (Spelt with two k’s and called cookies in the US; not to be confused with bikies, with one k, who are people on motorbikes.) Between trees hung banners that said Stop Revive Survive.

For a sober moment, the rude, make-fun-of-everything Klines reflected on Australia’s Driver Reviver program and imagined the difference such a program would make in the United States where  approximately 50,000 people die in car accidents each year and where that number increases by 4% increase each year (Yet the US Department of Transportation allocates only 1% of its budget for traffic safety programs!)

Australia’s goal is to reduce the number of people killed in car crashes. Started in the early 80’s, this initiative brought car accident fatalities down by 33% in the first 10 years. Programs like Driver Reviver are complemented by heavy penalties. For example, during the holidays violators receive double fines and double demerits (negative points against the driver’s license). A local newspaper article told of a man who was speeding and refused to stop for the police. Even though the incident did not result in death or property damage, the man was sentenced to 30 years without a driver’s license!

Sipping tea under the Eucalyptus trees of the Driver Reviver, the cynical Klines developed a healthy respect for Australians and gained some spiritual lessons from the Driver Reviver program.

STOP. You need to come to a complete stop before you can clearly hear God. God’s voice is more audible in the unrushed life, when you stand still. Moses had to get away from royal responsibilities, family, and sheep herding and stand still in the desert before he could hear the voice of God; he stood still by the burning bush to hear God.  Paul was on a mission of justice and vengeance with no time to stop; God blinded him to a halt to talk to him.  Jacob had to stop running, take time out and lay his head on a rock; only then did God speak of assurance. John was banished to an island of silence and solitude; and God gave Him the revelation. Similarly, Ellen White practiced the art of coming to a complete stop to listen to the voice of God. In her Australian home, Sunnyside, still exists her prayer room: It is a closet with just enough space for one armchair and one person. She was known to begin every day in the closet, praying for an hour or more.

And it’s not about stopping only when running on empty! The program is as effective as the frequency with which it is used and why it is used; it depends on the commitment to the program. Looking at the array of free bikkies on the counter, we realized how ineffective it would be in many parts of the US where free is equivalent to “more for me.” Driver Reviver back home would go broke with people stuffing their back packs with free snacks for themselves and their neighborhood! one Kline said and the other Klines laughed.

Stopping for the free bikkies, to take a wee (restroom stop in Aussie-speak), or because you catch yourself dozing at the wheel is not an optimal use of the Driver Reviver Program. What would happen to a relationship, say a marriage, if we stop to refuel only when we hit rock bottom, or only on vacations or when we sense we’re heading for trouble? What about your spiritual relationship with God? Do stop to refuel at regular intervals? Or do you stop only when you run out of steam and out of all options?

REVIVE. The Driver Reviver Program revives the traveler both physically and mentally. Stretching our legs, having a drink and bikkies, gave us a fresh boost of energy; meeting strangers, exchanging travel stories and ideas fueled us with the sense of adventure to get off the main highway and take the scenic route. Had we been too tired from driving, we would not have seen the real Australia that rolls off the narrow, rugged roads. On the beautiful, exciting scenic routes of Australia there are no speed limit signs; the assumption is that you are an experienced, alert and responsible driver with a commitment to program. The only road sign we saw on the scenic route was Drive to Suit Conditions. 

Similarly, in your spiritual life, after the experience of safe, strong spiritual travels of living the responsible, committed Christian life, God may lure you to the scenic route! The spiritual scenic route takes you go where you wouldn’t ordinarily go; you will meet angels in disguise, experience miracles, and witness events you’d never see on the main highway. Here you will encounter opportunities to tell your story and listen to those of others. He may invite you to take a detour to serve as a missionary in the Andes, or take up a cause that scares most people, or start a risky business. And just as the exits for the scenic route are few and far apart on the main highway, you can easily miss God’s calling to step out of the ordinary and experience the spiritually spectacular.

SURVIVE. The best argument to stop and revive is the assurance of survival. When you stop to revive, chances are you will survive the journey. King David is a perfect example of the Spiritual Driver Reviver Program. At the end of his journey, David “became exhausted” (2 Samuel 21: 15). He was an old man who was dealt too many low blows: he lost a son, saw his nation through a famine, experienced the misery of battle. He had good reason to be exhausted; yet he didn’t take a nap, whine about his difficulties, or place blame on someone. Instead the weary David lifted his hands to God and declared his feelings in a song (2 Samuel 22). His song was not dark, not a dirge. His song was not angry, not heavy metal. It was a psalm of praise: He had no regrets; only tributes!

David took the scenic route and his colorful life was a testimony to it. On his journey, he had many dangerous encounters–like the Yowies of Australia.

Yowies of the Aboriginal legends are “giant fellas taller than a gumtree” who dig trenches in which they place upright spears to impale men and roast them for dinner! David’s life was filled with yowies, from when he was a little boy facing Goliath to when he ran from Saul the Maniac King to when he lost his son. Yet he survived because he regularly and continually stopped to reconnect with God.

Chances are that at some point your commitment level to the program will slip and you will find yourself stopping only when you are burnt out. But regardless of when you stop, the Driver Reviver Program will welcome you: The driver reviver program is an act of grace. More importantly the program is run by volunteers: It is free; participation is your choice. The same is true of God’s program. It’s free; it’s an act of grace. Participation is purely your choice.

Driver Reviver’s a pretty good concept, one Kline grudgingly admitted and the other Klines agreed.

Spiritual Musings

new year’s resolution still on track. yay ;)

I began this year determined to pick a resolution that I actually might succeed in keeping. So I picked the WordPress challenge to blog every day. I figured since I’m always writing about something or the other, this may be the year I stay focused on my resolve. But then there are days like today when even waking up at 4am doesn’t give me enough time to get to everything on the day’s to-do list.

So, on days like today, I’m especially thankful for my Tyndale Life Application Study Bible. The notes on every page quickly steer my thoughts into blogs and I can smugly say Ha! Take That, Resolution! and move on to other tasks at hand. Here’s today’s blog. Thanks, Tyndale.

Spiritual Musings

letting problems take a backseat

I was there to listen to Bruce sing again in the quartet for the first time in three years. To compensate for the loss of salivary glands, he took long sips of water between songs. And on one of his water breaks, he shared his testimony. He began, “Three years ago I got the blessing of cancer.” (Read the rest here.)