All posts by Mike L. Raether

With God in the Wilderness

I hate leashing my dog. However, there are places where Sophie must be leashed to be legal. At such times I’m compelled to obey the leash laws, but I don’t have to like it. Sophie and me like it best when we can retreat to the wilderness and run free, Sophie chasing squirrels and never catching them while I chase the grin on my face.

Road to Somewhere

I think dogs were meant to run free, but you can’t just turn ’em loose and expect them to behave. It takes a lot of training before a dog can be trusted to heel, sit, stay, come, and all that. In the beginning, all that training requires leash time. It has taken a long time, but Sophie now knows her commands by voice, hand, and whistle. Only as the pup matures, can she be trusted.

I think it’s the same way with Christian men. In the beginning of our relationship with God, like a pup, God has to keep us on a leash. We have to show that we can be trusted with our freedom before God turns us loose.

In the beginning of my relationship with Sophie we spent a lot of  time together. As a consequence, she learned to trust me and I learned to trust her. It’s the same way between God and people: it takes a lot of time spent with God in order for the relationship to bloom.

I believe the best place to spend time with God is the wilderness.

Now, a wilderness can be a literal wilderness complete with bears, bugs, lions, wolves and such. But “wilderness” can also be a metaphor for very hard places such as loneliness, depression, divorce or the death of a loved one. Or it could be the wilderness of incarceration, rejection by friends or family or tribe.

What about you? Do you find yourself in the wilderness? Take heart, the wilderness is a good place to be. Not necessarily because it’s a fun place to be. A bump in the night is still a bump in the night. But God is there. And spending time with God in the wilderness seems like His main method for developing maturity. Consider these examples –

  • Jacob: His name means, “supplanter,” a fitting name for a man who tricked his older brother Esau out of his birthright. As you can imagine, when Esau discovered his bother’s treachery, he wanted to slit Jacob’s throat. Jacob fled his homeland and lived for many years in the land of Haran, hundreds of miles to the north. It was in the land of Haran that God matured Jacob, and finally Jacob returned home and made peace with his brother Esau.
  • Moses: Moses killed a man and fled for his life to a wilderness region the  Bible calls, “the backside of the desert.” (KJV). After spending about 40 years in the wilderness, God had matured him to the point where He could use him to lead his people out of Egyptian slavery.
  • David: As a mere teen David received God’s anointing as Israel’s next king, but he wasn’t ready to take the throne. He spend many years far from his homeland in the wilderness before God was ready to take him off the leash.
  • Paul the Apostle: Once an avowed enemy of the Christians of the first century A.D., Paul was converted to Christianity while traveling to Damascus, where he intended to have the Christians living there arrested for heresy. Paul was destined to be the greatest church planter ever known.  But before God turned Paul loose, He prepared him for a number of years in the wilderness of Arabia.
  • And finally, there’s the example of Jesus: Right after His baptism, the Bible says in Matthew 4:1 that “…Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [tested] by the devil.” (NASU). Jesus spend 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, being tempered by the temptations of the devil in order to prepare Him for the greatest task this world has ever known.

Do you find yourself in a wilderness at the moment? Tell us about it. You can never tell who might be help by hearing your story.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

 

 

Got Hope?

So we had this election… And ever since, I’ve been struggling to understand the actions and attitudes of my progressive friends. The light finally went on as I listened to Michelle Obama being interviewed by Oprah earlier this month.

"'The Scream" by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.
“‘The Scream” by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.

Oprah asked Ms. Obama how she was feeling about the Trump election. Michelle responded, “…see, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

And there it is. Despair is in the air. Some of my progressive friends, especially those those who are dependent on the government fear that their entitlements will go away, particularly such things as Social Security and Medicare. Other progressives are afraid that their pet agendas will be a negatively impacted.

Some have said, “C’mon, it was only an election !” But to those on the left, it was much more than an election. It was an assault on their hope. As Michelle said later in the same interview, “Hope is a necessary concept.” True dat. And when people lose hope, they’re flooded by despair.

As the Bible says in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision [hope], the people perish…” (KJV). Or as Peterson’s paraphrase has it, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…”*

I don’t know if Trump will be a good president or not. But I’m not too concerned about this as I don’t place my hope in government; my hope is in Jesus Christ. I know God is at work, and that He’s got this.

This isn’t the time to gloat, especially if we’re Christians. This is the time to reach out to those who are in despair and seek to understand the situation from their perspective. To do this, we must first be willing to listen. As David Bohm observed, “…communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence, so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions, and be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for.”

Once others see that you’re sincerely interested in what interests them, you may find that others are interested in what interests you. And they might even give you an opportunity to tell them of the great hope that is in you: Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Election Muck and Mud

As of today, the election of the next president of United States is 11 days away. But you knew that, didn’t you? Don’t you wish it was over? What a choice we have for president!

I’m so tired of the hatred coming not only from the mouths of the

Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal
Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal

candidates, but from the people who have chosen one candidate over the other. I saw a Facebook post a few days ago from a left-leaning person who said something about getting rid of the “F-tards” and working towards removing hate from the word. I couldn’t resist. I posted back, “Isn’t it hateful to call people names? Maybe getting rid of the hatred should start with you. He who is not guilty should get to throw the first stone.”

I’m tired of the spin coming from the left-leaning media. I’m also tired of the spin coming from the right-leaning media. Our country is so divided: “I’m a progressive” or, “I’m a conservative” or, “I’m a Democrat” or, “I’m a Republican.” I understand people are different and they have differing opinions. I get that. But if my opinion differs from your opinion, if my choice for president differs from your choice, can’t we just accept each other’s differences, even if we disagree? Why not?

I have an answer for this. It’s because something within us wants to feel superior to others. I call that something “pride.” For example, pride whispers that I’m better than you because my political opinions are, of course, right, and yours are wrong, or because I caught more fish than you, or shot a bigger buck than you. Or as Mick Jagger sung so many years ago, “He can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke the same kind of cigarettes as me” (from the Rolling Stones song, “I Can’t No Satisfaction”).

Here in Montana some have looked down on me or even thought there’s something wrong with me because instead of owning a horse and a Labrador retriever, I own a pack goat and a poodle (which, by the way, I was once told sounded like a country western song: “A Pack Goat and a Poodle.” But of course, I hate country western and I feel superior because of it. Who listens to such tripe?).

The solution is to imitate God, who is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” ( Luke 6:35 in part, Holy Bible, New Living Translation).

“Love is patient, love is kind and  is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New American Updated Standard Bible translation).

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Ode to a Hero

What comes to your mind when you think of heroes?

Long ago our heroes were larger than life, such as Donal Grant, the protagonist of George MacDonald’s book of that same name. Donal Grant was a hero, but because I found him to be too good, too perfect, I couldn’t relate to him. superman-295328_640

Fast forward to today’s culture. Today what many of us want is a “wounded healer”, such as that portrayed by Christian Bale as Batman in the film, The Dark Knight. Batman is forced to decide not between right and wrong but between what is good and what is best. In other words, it seems like pragmatism rules in today’s culture.

But the real heroes are not the real heroes. To find the real  heroes we must dig deeper. The real heroes are the ones who support the heroes: the ones who are content to play supporting roles, the ones willing to step aside (or rather come alongside) and let someone else be king.

For example, the real hero of The Lord of the Rings is not Frodo Baggins the Ring Bearer, Gandalf the wizard, or even Aragorn the Exiled King. The real hero of the story is Samwise Gamgee, who encouraged Frodo and helped him accomplish the task given to him.

The real hero of my story, my life’s story, is not me even though I play a central role. The real hero of my story is my wife Katherine, who supports me, counsels me, encourages me, and believes in me so that I can believe in myself.

Happy Anniversary, Katherine.

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

What I Learned from a Dandelion Seed

Courtesy Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25711166
Courtesy Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25711166

A dandelion seed floated past my window today, riding happily on random puffs of air. I started thinking (always hard for me, and usually dangerous):

The drifting dandelion seed had no idea where it was going or how long it would take to get there. Would it land on a bit of bare earth here in Montana or would it be wafted halfway around the world?  But it didn’t seem to matter to the dandelion seed. It was committed to the journey, however near  or far.

I was reminded of my journey through life. I’ve made plans about going here or there, but in the end, like that dandelion seed, all I’ve ever really done is react. The winds of life take me where they will, and I can only ride the wind.

Oh, but I forget: I can do more than just react. I can trust God. He knows the end of my journey and He will plant me just where He wants me, in His time and in His way.

I can trust God because I’ve come to know Him through His Son Jesus. Through Jesus Christ, I’ve come to know God as trustworthy. I’ve come to know Him as loving. I’ve come to know Him as kind,  that He is “…compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7, NASU). And I’ve come to know Him as my Great Friend.

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Are You an “Innie” or an “Outie”?

First off, to be clear, we’re not talking about belly buttons here. My title refers to whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.

I happen to be an introvert. I love reading, privacy, and thinking.

The Extrovert's View: "Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here!"
The Extrovert’s View: “Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here!”

I spend a lot of time in my head. I don’t like crowds and you may never see me at a party, because people drain me. I do not like chit-chat, but prefer a deeper interaction with others. I have a handful of close friends with whom I do life, but otherwise I recharge in silence and solitude. On the negative side, I can be viewed as shy or even antisocial.

Extroverts are at home in crowds. In fact, they are usually recharged by interaction with people. For example, I have a extrovert friend who has to have a regular “people fix” or he gets depressed. Accordingly, extroverts tend to have many friends but develop few deep relationships. Extroverts enjoy small talk, and often engage in chit chat just for the sake of communication. While extroverts can be thinkers and planners, they tend more to “thinking on their feet,” or going with their gut instincts.

One personality type is not better than another; they are just different. In a marriage, introverts and extroverts can balance each other. Unfortunately, our culture is oriented towards extroverts. We admire the quick-on-his-feet talker, the one who makes quick decisions, the guy or gal who is bold and outward-focused. We don’t want to wait for the introvert’s advice, even though his advice is usually more thought-out and therefore often avoids the risks of off-the-cuff, knee-jerk decisions.

In her fine book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain has a lots to say about introverts and extroverts. If you are curious, you can take a free online personality test that you might find helpful.

So which are you, an “innie” or an “outie”? And what are your thoughts about the two personality types?

 

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ah, yes, the good, the bad and the ugly about living in rural Montana.

The good: You can do just about whatever you want.

The bad: People do just about whatever they want.

The ugly: There are a bunch of very ugly people living here who do just about whatever they want. The Old Turkey Hunter

The good: The bugs here are just about big enough to eat.

The bad: the bugs here are just about big enough to eat you.

The ugly: There are a bunch of big, ugly bugs living here who eat just about anyone they want.

Good, bad or ugly, there’s a lot to be liked about living in rural Montana.

  • My bank doesn’t have a lobby, but they know my name when I pull up to the drive up window.
  • Within minutes of leaving home, I can park my truck at a trailhead and know it won’t be vandalized when I return. However, I can find peace, quiet and solitude on my porch without ever leaving home.

The good: birds flitting everywhere.

The bad: bird poo everywhere.

The ugly: bird poo in my eye.

So tell me: what’s the good, the bad, and the ugly about where you live? 

The Perfect Storm

Springtime in the Rockies.

Last Thursday evening started with the first BBQ of the season: grilled teriyaki chicken, paired with Jasmine rice and kale salad on the side, followed by the first thunderstorm of the year.

Photo Courtesy of Wilerson S Andrade, https://www.flickr.com/photos/will_spark/8602965815
Photo Courtesy of Wilerson S Andrade, https://www.flickr.com/photos/will_spark/8602965815

Blasting wind, horizontal rain, lightening streaking across the sky almost right overhead, and closely accompanied by house-shaking thunder. Awesome! I love a good storm. After supper my Standard Poodle and I sat out on my deck and enjoyed the show together.

Did I get wet? You bet! Did I enjoy the storm? You bet! After getting thoroughly soaked, I retreated to the house.

It was The Perfect Storm. However, perfection has its limits. A diamond can be cut perfectly, but it cannot exceed that perfection. But the perfections of God are unlimited.

How about you? Do you like a good storm? Tell me about it. Or maybe you’d just like to muse with me on the perfections of God. I’d like to hear about that, too.

Your turn –

One Mediator

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Copyright Mike Raether 2016

This morning I awoke too early. Wide awake. A single word entered my mind: Come. I tried to go back to sleep as the time on the clock was only O-Dark-Stupid-Thirty, but the word wouldn’t go away. And then another word: Obey.

Come. Obey.

And so I finally obeyed, I came, and I wrote this poem –

Here I am,

I come to Thee,

I have only but one plea,

That the Mediator died for me.

1 Timothy 2:5.