Whenever He Returns

[Editor's note: I wrote this post in April, but for some reason never published it. Blog posts that are written, but not published, often seem to block me from further creative thought. I've had a long drought of creativity, so I decided to go ahead and post this one.]

On Wednesday, I read my daily Bible selection, following the through-the-Bible-in-a-year schedule as set out by the good folks at One Year Bible.

One Year Bible
Not my actual Bible. I use the online version, usually NIV or some other

I came across a passage in Luke that warns against complacency among believers, and encourages faithful servants of the Master to be ready for His return. I had tended to interpret this as referring primarily to the Second Coming, the time when Jesus returns in majesty, glory and power to claim His own.

One of the really cool things about reading the Bible is that, because it is the very inspired living Word of God, the Holy Spirit is able to interpret it to the heart of man in new and fuller ways, the more it is read and studied. This time when I read it, I thought in terms of the smaller ‘returns’ of the Master, as He calls to me in my day-to-day life:

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.” — Luke 12:35-38

Many non-believers play a deadly sort of game with God, knowing that He exists, but delaying their recognition of Him in their lives. “I’ll get right with God when I’m done with the ‘me’ phase of my life,” they tell themselves, not realizing that they are hardening their hearts against God’s influence, painting themselves into a corner where they cannot respond to His love, more surely than Ebenezer Scrooge forged his chains of greed. When the end of their life comes, often unexpectedly, they find that they never quite made the time or opportunity to turn their hearts to God, and so they spend eternity, separated from Him and all of His glory.

I think it is possible even for a Christian to play a variant of this game. “I’ll become a fully devoted follower of Jesus once I take care of [insert excuse here]”. It may be a job, wealth, family, marital status, schooling, personal entertainment or any other thing that I put ahead of the call of the Master in my life. And so they go on with their lives, not responding to the Master’s call in their daily walk with Him.

“But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.” — Luke 12:45-46

Surprise, surprise, at some point the Master will return in glory, and mete out rewards and punishments as promised. But along the way, there are also many rewards to be had, for those servants who are faithful to obey His voice.

I haven’t been sleeping very well of late, because of my allergies – averaging about 5 hours of sleep a night. When I finally saw an allergist on Monday, he gave me a steroid that almost entirely dealt with my symptoms, but (ironically) prevented me from sleeping the first night I took it. On Tuesday I fired off a note to the men I pray with on Wednesday mornings, telling them I may take a ‘pass’ if I was unable to get to sleep early Tuesday night. But before I slept that night, I asked God to wake me if He wanted me there. Then I carefully turned OFF my alarm.

About 25 minutes before we usually meet, Kathy woke up and went to the bathroom, waking me when she came back to bed. I looked at the clock, and realized that, if I took a quick shower and hustled, I could make it on time. Part of me wanted to go back to sleep, but a louder part of me remembered the prayer the night before.

“The Master is calling,“ I reminded myself; and so I got up, grumbling: “… but does He have to call ‘just before dawn’, just to fulfill the Scriptures?”

I’m not very gracious in my thoughts, early mornings.

As it turns out, it was important that I was there to pray, and my presence there opened up several other ways for me to serve. More and more I find myself listening for the voice of my King, and eagerly wanting to please Him, to demonstrate to Him that I am a good servant, not beating the other servants or getting drunk while ‘waiting’ for Him to return.

I was talking yesterday evening with a dear brother, about motivation in pleasing God. “Is it right to be motivated by a desire for reward, when obeying God?” he asked. Christians sometimes get caught up on this kind of thing, wanting to serve with the purest of motives, but not knowing how to get to that point.

“Well, God set up the whole idea of rewards for good service,” I told him. “I don’t think He has any illusions about our motives, and He doesn’t seem to have a problem with our mercenary greed, at least when it is put to His service.” I paused reflectively.

“In my life, I’ve found that the more I serve, the purer my motives become. Even when I start out obeying out of obligation, duty or even fear, I find (if I keep obeying) that my motives begin to joyfully skew toward obedience out of love.”

I’m sure I wasn’t quite that articulate, but, hey, this is my blog, and I can quote myself however I like. I went on at some length, trying to paint a picture of someone who starts out at Duty, and arrives at Love. Most people can identify with this at some level – parenting an infant is like that, or working at a new job (if it is a good one).

Every day that I go in to ‘the city’ to work, I drive past one of the ubiquitous coffee stands that infest our town. This particular one advertises, in a garish pink sign, ‘Bikini Barrista Babes’, and its chain has been featured in local news stories for the scanty nature of the ‘bikinis’. Every day I want to look over as I drive past and check out the girls who serve the coffee. It is a dangerous stretch of road, frankly, not the least because of that visual distraction.

At first, I didn’t look out of duty and obligation. How could I expect to be a worthy instrument of God’s grace if I disobeyed such a simple instruction, so early in the day?

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” — Matthew 5:28

“You shall not commit adultery.” — Exodus 20:14

It doesn’t get much plainer than that, I’m afraid. It is clearly not God’s intent for a man to lust after a woman who is not his wife.

This morning I was thinking about my heart motivations, and I realized that I was able to keep my eyes on the road, not begrudging the duty, but out of joy. “I make a covenant with my eyes not to lust after strange women,” I reminded myself, “because I love my Lord and want to please Him.”

“Women who wear bikinis at 5 in the morning to serve coffee are definitely strange,” I mused.

I’m sure my motivations will not always be good and pure, but I find that I am able to get to that point more and more as I practice obedience.

Still, it would be nice if the Master would return in mid-afternoon, when it is convenient for me. :)


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A kitten would make everything better!

Hello loyal blog readers! And not so loyal blog readers, just kidding! Ha ha! Oh, this is Rachel by the way. My mom wanted me to write this blog/story. Probably because I really love this certain subject!

It all started one normal afternoon. Rachel E. was sitting on ‘Big Blue’ like a good girl, reading her slightly dull, but historic school book, when she heard a very loud noise.

“Oh my goodness,” she thought to herself. “That sounded like someone dumped a load of wild elephants on our fount porch!” (Rachel has a tendency to exaggerate a little.) Then she heard a small and pitiful meowing that seemed to come from the same area.

sweet little thing

“Well If its meowing I hear, a kitten must be near!”

Actually she thought, “Oh no, something terrible must have happened, I should go investigate!” So Rachel quickly ran outside. As she ran around the corner and down the stairs, a big brown cat slipped under her parents’ car and into the neighbors yard.

“Oh,” thought Rachel. “I wonder if that was the meowing I heard, hmm I’ll check just in case.” So she hurried down the stairs, and knelt in the dirt. There in the blackberry bushes was an adorable, perfect, completely terrified, little kitten. She reached her hand under to rescue the poor thing from its cold, and sharp surroundings, but the little imp clawed and bit her. Rachel decided it would be smarter to have gloves for this sort of rescuing. After rushing to gather the very large gloves, she gently lifted the tiny kitten from the thorns. She then showed it to the rest of her family. Some were just thrilled to see a real live kitten, but some were not as pleased.

Can I pet him?

“Now you may play with the kitten outside, but it does not come in to the house,” said Rachel’s beloved father.

“Yes sir,” Rachel replied but inside, she sighed.

Her mother chimed in, “Aww it’s so cute! Don’t let me get attached to it, or I might want to keep it.”

“And that’s the last thing we want!” Rachel thought. She reminded her mother of how little and sweet it was. :)

Rachel spent the next glorious hour holding her favorite and most sought after animal in the whole world. Then Rachel’s youngest siblings babied and cuddled the darling kitten. But eventually all good things have to come to an end, (Until we get to Heaven! There good things NEVER come to an end!! :) ) But in this story, Rachel’s good thing had to come to an end.

Definitely a baby kitten!

Rachel’s father said, “Okay, now take it back where you found it, so its mother can find it again.” This is a very logical statement, but at the time, Rachel thought she would be a much better mom to that little kitten. After all, the mother just abandoned its child! But Rachel knew she must obey, so sadly she took the kitten back to where she found it, but in a slightly more comfortable place, and went back to her school.

look at those faces!

That is the end of our tale, Rachel has not rescued the kitten again, and she knows that she probably never will. Even though at this very moment she knows where her little friend is. (And one or more of it’s siblings) ;) So, if anyone of you loyal blog readers think that Rachel should be allowed to keep, or at least attend the kittens, please comment!!

buddies in the grass

Thank you,

P.S. if you don’t believe that this tale is true, just ask Sarah, she saw it too!

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Poolside in Washington

When we first moved to Washington State in March of 1999, we arrived on the heels of the rainiest winter in recent memory. “It rained for 90 days in a row,” people would exclaim, shaking their heads mournfully. The rains continued as we settled into our rental home in Kirkland, and we worried about what it would be like to live here year-round.

pool lounging

David, Daniel and Emma hang out by the pool.

Kathy used to ‘chase the sun’ by driving around town with our three oldest children, looking for blue sky and trying to get near it. East of Seattle, the sun can often be found near the lakes; she bought a detailed map and learned where all the parks were, in her search for sunshine.

Usually the month of June can be relied upon for some serious rain; summer may reign in other parts of the country, but June in Western Washington is often cold and wet. So I was skeptical when Kathy talked about joining the local pool association this summer.

cool goggles

We buy goggles in bulk at Costco.

“It’s not like we have a lot of extra money kicking around,” I reminded her. Between Kathy’s recent crown replacement and my allergy shot bill, we’re hard-pressed to meet our bills these days. “Besides, you’ll go to the pool, what, maybe four times? How often is it going to be sunny and warm between now and August?”

One of Kathy’s great strengths is that when she thinks something is important, she pursues it tenaciously. She began assembling her money and marshalling her reasons:

“Let’s see, if I join before the 31st, the price will come down from $425 to $395. If six of us go to the pool at least 20 times, that brings the price down to less than $3 per person, per visit.”

Diving girl!

Rachel spent quite a bit of time this afternoon, teaching Sarah diving tips.

Kathy and I are fundamentally different in this respect: the idea of being somewhere away from home to relax appeals greatly to her, and not to me. My home is where I want to be, most of the time – but ‘home’ for Kathy comes with an associated burden of laundry and dishes and a need to ‘tidy up’. The image of reclining at the pool with her friends proved a strong lure to my beloved:

“OK, so I’ve got $120 from our exercise challenge, and $150 from setting up that checking account (some of the banks in our area have begun incentivizing new customers). If I refer Michelle and we split the referral bonus, that’s another $25.

Two of Kathy’s friends gave her the $45 ‘Diet Fund’ to which the three of them had contributed as an incentive in their weight-loss program, which brought her to $340. Add a bit from the anniversary check that Kathy’s folks gave us, and the pool membership was paid for, all with guilt-free money!

look at that boy go!


David is surely ready to join the swim team!

In spite of my gloomy weather predictions and Eeyore-like shaking of the head, now Kathy and the kids spend the afternoons at the pool, soaking up this unprecedented June sunshine, as our hot, sunny weather persists into a third week of record-breaking temperatures. The pool deck area has tables and two propane grills so that you can eat a picnic dinner right there at the pool with minimal cleanup and fuss.

“I better break out my Grilling cookbooks,” Kathy remarked smugly.


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