Thursday, March 17, 2008

Travis put us all in stitches, describing the plight of his dentures. Tricky things to make, are dentures, and take hours of intense labor, as I’ve discovered from being in the lab with Papa. It’s hard to convince the wayward teeth to stay in one’s mouth, as poor Travis has discovered. “Super glue works for many things,” Mom offered, jokingly, but Travis only shuddered. “It doesn’t work for this! I tried it!” Out pop his teeth, before he continues, “I go to eat oatmeal with a big spoon and wind up putting my food on top of my teeth instead of between them. The first day I got them, I was driving down the highway with my windows rolled down and I sneezed. I barely caught my teeth on their way out the window. Just the other day I coughed and they went flying across the floor. ‘Mary!’ I yelled. ‘Get me my dentures, would you?’ She says, ‘I ain’t touching them!’” Then there’s the time he lost them in a movie theatre. He’d taken them out to eat popcorn and rolled them into his sweatshirt, then gotten up to move, forgetting about them. Soon he and the manager were crawling around in the dark with a flashlight, poking under people’s feet, more entertaining than the movie, as they searched for the missing mouthpiece. Travis knows we’re believers. We talk with him frequently. But none of us has yet shared the gospel. Why is it that those who live so near us, who give us so many opportunities, seem the most frightening? As if sharing the best news on earth would somehow hamper our relationship.

I think I made a million phone calls today, and received a million more. I can’t even remember why. I know I wasn’t selling vinyl siding. Thankfully, they weren’t either.

As usual, I’d disconnected the wireless device after checking my e-mail and attempted to reconnect it to Papa’s computer. Nothing. No recognition. Uh. What? I checked the USB cables, tried several other ports and then tried reconnecting to my laptop. Power, yes. Data, no. Oh great. That meant a hardware issue. I quickly dug out our latest bill and called AT&T. Emily, my very kind AT&T representative walked me through several troubleshooting processes (again) and deduced the same thing. Here’s where I found her impressive: instead of simply transferring me over to the warranty department and leaving me on my own to explain myself and my data, she went on hold with me—even disconnected me, so I wouldn’t have to wait, and then called me back when she finally got through to a representative, where she introduced us, passed on the problem and I soon had my issue resolved. Well, at least as well as I could hope for. The upshot is that we’re expecting a new device Monday. Until then, we shall be entirely cut off from the electronic world. Funny how dependent we’ve become on e-mail and internet that a few days without that option seems like a hardship.

I’ve been lingering in the word bridge between Deuteronomy and Joshua, captured by one theme: “Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or discouraged, for Yahweh is with you.” Could there be a more appropriate time for this command, when it seems a few giants are undefined giants are facing us? Fascinating is the wording. Not, “you can do it” or “you’re big enough for this” or “you’re the man!” as the world would tell us—falsely. A command: be strong and courageous. Make the choice: don’t be terrified or discouraged. Why? Because Yahweh is with you. Us. Me. Forty years before, Joshua’s generation had trembled, had feared, had become discouraged, forgetting the mighty deeds Yahweh had done on their behalf. Now, as an eighty-year-old man, come again to the edge of the promised land, God reminds him over and over again to be brave! To fight with might for the right. Because Yahweh Himself is with him, fighting for the sake of His name.

Be strong in Yahweh and in the strength of His might. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers and principalities of darkness. We’re not battling idolatrous Canaanites, but the very bloodthirsty darkness that controlled them. Therefore, we should gird ourselves with the armor of God, that we may stand firm. Clothed with truth, guarded by righteousness, walking in peace, shielded by faith, protected by salvation and doing battle with God’s word and through the far-reaching power of prayer.

And pray for what? For boldness. “Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous!” Because the Creator and Sustainer of all life is with me wherever I go. Because the battle is not mine, it’s His. Because He has already won the victory and ensured that I will receive the unfading wreath of eternal life.

The story of Jericho’s downfall seems overly familiar at times, but the command for silence set me to thinking. Why would God command silence as His people paraded around the walls of Jericho? In a dearth of words, I find myself growing thoughtful, pondering, meditating. No doubt the men of Israel found themselves recalling how Yahweh had piled up the water of the Jordan so they could cross, how He had brought them so far, they could see the ark in front of them, leading the way, remember the beautiful object lessons it contained, think on God’s promises kept and this new one: that the walls would come crashing down when they obeyed. Jericho was a battle won through worship—unquestioningly obeying God’s commands. Silently, so as to focus on Yahweh and His power. Then the shout—the cry of faith that the victory was won and the answering rumbling that sent the massive walls into piles of dust and debris. As I buckle on my armor for spiritual battle, I am reminded that God does the fighting—our part is to worship, to obey, to shout the cry of victory.

Lord, Thou bids me take my sword,
And in the true strength of Thy word,
The courage which Thy presence lends,
The power which Thy spirit sends,

To take the battlefield and fight,
Against the strongholds of the night,
Tear down discouragement and fear,
And so the devil’s strongholds here.

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