Wisdom and Innocence

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

I once came across a recipe for Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake and said to myself, “That can’t be right!” The recipe claimed it was an “adventurous” cake — moist, containing the texture of coconut but without the flavor of sauerkraut. “How is that possible?” I thought.

That’s how I felt when I first read about Jesus sending His disciples out with the counsel to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” How is that possible? Can snakes and doves get along? Can wisdom and innocence reside in the same person at the same time? If wisdom is primarily obtained through life’s hard-knock experiences, then one would think innocence would be lost in the process. If a parent wanted to maintain a child’s innocence throughout his or her life, that parent would need to shelter the child from any harsh experiences but thereby, inadvertently, inhibit any growth in wisdom. Yet, Jesus was clear in his admonition, “Go. Be wise. And be innocent at the same time.” I was intrigued and wanted to seek this matter out.

I started my research by looking into the definitions of wise and innocent. “Wise” in this Scripture is the Greek word φρόνιμοι (phronimoi) which means prudent, sensible, or practically wise in relationships with others. It’s how we size things up. In place of “wise,” other translations use the words shrewd, cunning, prudent, sagacious, or wary. That is why He compared this kind of wisdom to being snakelike. “Be shrewd. Be discerning,” Jesus warned. After all, He was sending His disciples out as “sheep among wolves.”

How are serpents wise? They are pros at escaping. Their most common form of self-protection isn’t biting but avoidance. A snake’s first line of defense is to escape to safety among rocks or vegetation. Most snakes are not aggressive; they bite humans only in self-defense. They would rather not confront us. Snakes detect and avoid danger, while giving no provocation or offense.

Therefore, it seems to me that Jesus was saying we can be wise as serpents by perceiving and avoiding danger and escaping from it. That doesn’t sound very bold, does it? But it is wise. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent (shrewd, sensible) see danger and take refuge, but the simple (naive, foolish) keep going and suffer for it.” How often have we sensed God’s voice saying, “Don’t go any further,” but we keep going and suffer for it? Especially, in our interactions with others in these volatile times, we must be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19b)

Now let’s add the doves into our recipe for wisdom and innocence. What does it mean to be as innocent as doves? The Greek word for innocent is ἀκέραιοι (akeraioi). It literally means unmixed. It’s interpreted as simple, unsophisticated, sincere, and blameless. Used of wine without water and of metal without alloy, it means without any mixture of deceit. Other translations use the words pure, simple, and harmless. To be harmless is to lack the capacity to injure or hurt.

But how are doves innocent? The innocence of the dove is seen in two ways.

Doves have no gallbladder. As the dove is without a gallbladder, so we are to be without any place to store gall, which represents bitterness. That said, the dove’s liver still produces bile or gall, but it is diverted into sinuses, and then passed directly into the gut, skipping the storage step for which we use our gallbladders. Isn’t it interesting that humans store their bile (gall) while doves quickly process it and do not store it? How often do we “store up” our bile of bitterness and our gall of deceit, fraud, and desire to hurt?

Doves are harmless. In contrast with powerful birds of prey, doves have a meek and gentle quality. They are beautiful, swift-flying birds that are entirely nonthreatening.

Romans 16:19 ISV instructs us to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”

Philippines 2:15 NASB says, “so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

“Being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove means that you know how the enemy is operating, and you are choosing not to operate in that way.” ~ Lance Wallnau

Summary: As Jesus sends us out to be messengers to this generation, He does not want our wisdom to be malicious nor our simplicity to be taken advantage of. Rather, He would have us be an exquisite, lovely union of the shrewdness of a snake with the purity of a dove as demonstrated in Christ. The end result will be like the Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake – an adventurous mixture where one ingredient doesn’t contradict the other but enhances and elevates it. We can be both savvy and simple, insightful and innocent!

Connections

Click! Nothing. Click-click!! Still nothing. Click, click, click!!!…Sigh. “Phooey, the batteries must be dead,” I mutter.

I own a number of battery-operated candles and lanterns…so many that I often put some of them in storage and like the irresponsible battery-owner that I am, forget to take the batteries out first. When I retrieve the lanterns to use and they don’t work, I investigate the battery compartment and often find that gritty, whitish-bluish substance caused by leaking potassium hydroxide all around the forgotten batteries. Corrosion!

I am resurrecting a set of Japanese lanterns that hasn’t seen the light of day since our son’s wedding six years prior. Every one of them has a set of beautifully corroded batteries inside. Rather than bidding the lanterns a sad goodbye, I grab a screwdriver and begin to force the encrusted batteries out and clean the compartments in hopes I can still use the lanterns. Vinegar, a small paintbrush, sandpaper, a rag, and rubbing alcohol are put to use to clean the terminals. Similar to a teenager popping pimples, I experience a sense of satisfaction as I watch the vinegar bubble up and dissolve the corrosion. Then I clean the connections with rubbing alcohol until they shine.

Now, the moment of truth. Will the new batteries work? Why, yes, they do! All my Japanese lanterns are saved…at least for another year!

As I was praying over the theme of connections for a recent writing retreat, the image of the corroded batteries in my lanterns came to mind. “Ugh…corrosion of connections has taken place during COVID season,” I sigh. We have been “stored away” from others and “put on the shelf,” and now that we are brought out again from isolation, we find that some of our connectors just aren’t working. And what’s all that crud around them?

Connection to God has been corroded in some cases. Connections with others as well. Just as corrosion is the gradual destruction of materials by a chemical reaction with their environment, so spiritual corrosion occurs gradually because of living in the environment of a fallen world… with fallen people.

How can we heal this corrosive damage and have a bright, healthy connection with God and others again? Just like my lanterns, we don’t need to throw out our sources of light. They just need cleaning up and fresh “batteries” put in.

We were made for connection. That’s for sure. We were made to shine. We know that, too. As we open our heart compartments, we know our Father wants to clean us up and heal our connectors with Him and others. It’s His pleasure to do so. Why not ask Him today?

“But if we keep living in the pure light that surrounds him, we share unbroken fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, continually cleanses us from all sin (I John 1:7 TPT).

Autumn Rites

Autumn practically writes her own story
Every leaf a page unto itself.
Let the writing flow as the leaves let go
Each one a spinning allegory.

No writer’s block among the colored trees
Tales of glory whispered in the wind.
Once proffering shade to every passerby
Now heaving sighs of grief on autumn eves.

One by one trees drop their tools of trade
Receiving notice of their final days.
Once fluttering high with purpose and with pride
Now detached as the message is conveyed.

Standing naked ‘gainst the darkening sky
Nothing covering their rough and tired limbs.
Are they still as needed and desired
Before their future lives identified?

Autumn has written her own story
Each fallen leaf a torn page from the book.
Autumn’s tale is a rite of passage taken.
Winter comes to claim her territory.

Autumn wrote her book; spring wrote the sequel.
With sweeping strokes of hope she penned the words,
Behold, in fallen leaves…the promised May.
It’s God’s kindness for all people!

Our Day

I once read that the less you spend on your wedding, the longer your marriage will last.  If this is true, we are in for a long one — like a lifetime! Today we celebrate 38 years invested towards that goal.  

Our wedding was far from ideal.  We definitely spent less than $1,000.  We were just returning from studying at Kingsway Missionary Institute in southern Texas where we met, dated, and became engaged all within the span of eight weeks.  I purchased my wedding dress and accoutrements for less than $100 US dollars from a bridal boutique in Renosa, Mexico and brought them to Michigan in Larry’s yellow 1970’s VW Bug.  We arrived in Kalamazoo in late May with some change in our pockets and a dream in our hearts of a beautiful August wedding. 

August 6, 1983, dawned hot and humid in southern Michigan, no surprise there.  We were married in a non-air conditioned church.  Sweat poured off our faces and leaked through our armpits.  Makeup melted off the ladies’ faces, and men’s antiperspirants failed them.  

Our photographer (who was a friend of a friend, you know what I mean?) showed up in a full-leg cast with crutches and no assistant.  But what can you expect for $100?  Shouting her instructions, which were pretty minimal, we shuffled into place, as she hobbled into hers.  She later lost two rolls of film that were never recovered, but she managed to send us a few photos, thankfully, by which we have something to remember the day.  

When I see photos from weddings today, I am a little jealous I must admit.  I could have gone for all the fun and quirkiness and beautifully staged moments, which mark post-millennium wedding photos.  Ours could be posted under the category of “Awkward Wedding Photos from the ’80s.”

The pastor gave a message on the “Bride of Christ,” and he waxed long and eloquent to the point, wherein desperation, I wanted to hold up a little sign stating “That’s enough.”  He was a dear friend of ours, who has sadly passed away.  I can write this now because he is laughing along with me from heaven.

Back in those days, many Christians did not have dancing, drinking, or other forms of merrymaking at their weddings.  Yep, we were in that crowd.  No reception hall was rented, for heaven’s sake!  We used the church’s “fellowship room.” 

Our pastor’s wife, knowing our limited (a.k.a. nonexistent) budget, suggested she have some “ladies of the church” bring food for the reception.  The wedding cake, which we did order from a local bakery, began to swoon and faint, resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa throughout the reception.  I kept wanting to tilt my head as we were cutting it. 

And true to Christians who married in the ’80s, our recessional song was “You Shall Go Out With Joy.”  Which we did. 

Small.  Intimate.  Heartfelt and sweet.  It was our wedding, and it was memorable!  And today I am thankful, mostly for our God, who brought us together and has kept us together, lo, these many years. 

The secret?  Ah, I knew you would ask!  It’s simple but not easy:  Make your marriage a threesome by praying with your spouse every day.  

“That’s it?  Pray with him/her every single day?  Have you done that?” you ask incredulously.  

No, but we always come back to it when there has been a lapse.  We have never abandoned it.  We have noticed how difficult, if not impossible, it is to remain angry or discouraged when we are talking to The 3rd Party in our marriage.  He lifts us up, cheers us on, forgives our mistakes and wrongdoings, and reminds us of our covenant.  

“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”  

Tonight, as Larry and I celebrate our covenant, we will end the day like we have so many others, praying with and for each other.  It’s our secret…but you can tell.

Wisdom and Innocence

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

I once came across a recipe for Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake and said to myself, “That can’t be right!” The recipe claimed it was an “adventurous” cake — moist, containing the texture of coconut but without the flavor of sauerkraut. “How is that possible?” I thought. 

That’s how I felt when I first read about Jesus sending His disciples out with the counsel to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” How is that possible? Can snakes and doves get along? Can wisdom and innocence reside in the same person at the same time? If wisdom is primarily obtained through life’s hard-knock experiences, then one would think innocence would be lost in the process. If a parent wanted to maintain a child’s innocence throughout his or her life, that parent would need to shelter the child from any harsh experiences but thereby, inadvertently, inhibit any growth in wisdom. Yet, Jesus was clear in his admonition, “Go. Be wise. And be innocent at the same time.” I was intrigued and wanted to seek this matter out.

I started my research by looking into the definitions of wise and innocent. “Wise” in this Scripture is the Greek word φρόνιμοι (phronimoi) which means prudent, sensible, or practically wise in relationships with others. It’s how we size things up. In place of “wise,” other translations use the words shrewd, cunning, prudent, sagacious, or wary.  That is why He compared this kind of wisdom to being snakelike. “Be shrewd. Be discerning,” Jesus warned. After all, He was sending His disciples out as “sheep among wolves.”

How are serpents wise? They are pros at escaping. Their most common form of self-protection isn’t biting but avoidance. A snake’s first line of defense is to escape to safety among rocks or vegetation. Most snakes are not aggressive; they bite humans only in self-defense. They would rather not confront us. Snakes detect and avoid danger, while giving no provocation or offense. 

Therefore, it seems to me that Jesus was saying we can be wise as serpents by perceiving and avoiding danger and escaping from it. That doesn’t sound very bold, does it? But it is wise. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent (shrewd, sensible) see danger and take refuge, but the simple (naive, foolish) keep going and suffer for it.” How often have we sensed God’s voice saying, “Don’t go any further,” but we keep going and suffer for it? Especially, in our interactions with others in these volatile times, we must be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19b) 

Now let’s add the doves into our recipe for wisdom and innocence. What does it mean to be as innocent as doves? The Greek word for innocent is ἀκέραιοι (akeraioi). It literally means unmixed. It’s interpreted as simple, unsophisticated, sincere, and blameless. Used of wine without water and of metal without alloy, it means without any mixture of deceit. Other translations use the words pure, simple, and harmless.  To be harmless is to lack the capacity to injure or hurt. 

But how are doves innocent? The innocence of the dove is seen in two ways.

  • Doves have no gallbladder. As the dove is without a gallbladder, so we are to be without any place to store gall, which represents bitterness. That said, the dove’s liver still produces bile or gall, but it is diverted into sinuses, and then passed directly into the gut, skipping the storage step for which we use our gallbladders. Isn’t it interesting that humans store their bile (gall) while doves quickly process it and do not store it? How often do we “store up” our bile of bitterness and our gall of deceit, fraud, and desire to hurt? 
  • Doves are harmless. In contrast with powerful birds of prey, doves have a meek and gentle quality. They are beautiful, swift-flying birds that are entirely nonthreatening. 

Romans 16:19 ISV instructs us to “be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” 

Philippines 2:15 NASB says, “so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” 

“Being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove means that you know how the enemy is operating, and you are choosing not to operate in that way.” ~ Lance Wallnau 

Summary:  As Jesus sends us out to be messengers to this generation, He does not want our wisdom to be malicious nor our simplicity to be taken advantage of. Rather, He would have us be an exquisite, lovely union of the shrewdness of a snake with the purity of a dove as demonstrated in Christ. The end result will be like the Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake – an adventurous mixture where one ingredient doesn’t contradict the other but enhances and elevates it.  We can be both savvy and simple, insightful and innocent.   

~ Janet Mueller

Loading the Dishwasher For Lovers

Load the dishes in the dishwasher 
Stack them one by one
Put the glasses on the top shelf
Do it this way, Sweetums!  

Place the silverware in the small slots
Arrange them handle side up
They shouldn’t touch each other
Please listen, Buttercup!

You must rinse the plates off first
Or they never will come clean.
Pots and pans and skillets, too
Are you listening, Prince Charming?

We are loading up the dishwasher
And learning as we go
Chores can be fun and lively
If we use pet names just so.  

Christmas Is Just Getting Started

Here we are in that funky week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. A time when many of us feel let down, confused as to what day it is, overfed and overweight, cluttered in mind and home, and relieved to some degree that it’s all over. We may feel an overwhelming urge to clean the house, dejunk, eat salads, and set goals for the new year.

When I was a child, there was a certain sadness that would sweep over me late on December 25 because I knew that come morning, it was all over. So I would listen to the last refrains of Christmas carols on the radio as I drifted off to sleep knowing that in the morning, it would be back to the usual pop and hit songs. Sure, we would leave the tree and decorations up until New Year’s Day, but really, for all practical purposes, Christmas was over for another year. Except in church. There I was reminded it was still the Christmas season officially until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. During Mass, we would still sing Christmas carols and read Christmas Scripture passages. And my little girl’s heart was satisfied with what I thought was an extended Christmas while all the rest of the world had moved on.

On the church calendar, I like that the true celebration of Christmas comes AFTER Christmas Day because that speaks of the magnificent change that occurred when we went from B.C. to A.D. The birth of our son’s second baby, Ezekiel, changed everything for him and Adrienne and turned their world upside down once again! But nothing like the birth of THAT Baby Boy, which changed even our calendar, because He was no ordinary baby. He was God in the flesh, and He came on mission.

The 12 Days of Christmas are not just the words of a cryptic traditional carol. They are a time of celebration of the grandest kind, but most people are simply too tired after Christmas Day to do any more celebrating. Probably because we spent ourselves so completely on all the preparations during Advent, prior to the Day.

I propose we turn things around. Let’s start really celebrating Christmas on December 26 by remembering we are part of this strange society of people, Christ followers, whose world has been turned “right side up” by this Baby, who was God in the flesh, born for us, died for us, raised for us, and lives in us! Merry Christmas Season!

Photo of “Cathedral in Winter”
by Ernst Ferdinand Oehme
( German watercolorist and landscape painter 1797-1855)

Why I Am Not a Globalist…But Will Be One Day

Someday, I will be a globalist…but that day has not yet come. As a Christian, my first and foremost loyalty is to another kingdom – the Kingdom of God. For now, this kingdom is primarily invisible and resides in the hearts of Christians. It is manifested now to some degree wherever Christians abide and are “salt and light.” However, it is not here fully and will not be until Christ returns. On that day, there will be a “one world government,” and we will be a “globalist” society with a benevolent King. But in the meantime, we have nations. Individual nations each with a unique identity, purpose, and destiny. 

I am a nationalist. By this, I mean I support the concept of individual nations, not a global society where borders and boundaries are erased supposedly for the common good. By being a nationalist, I am NOT saying that I believe our nation is intrinsically superior, should suppress weaker nations, or have no regard for other nations’ concerns. However, nations cannot be nations if they do not have boundaries and borders, unique cultures, governments, histories, and destinies. That is what makes them distinct, definable, and defendable.  

If you know my husband and me, you know of our great love for the people of all nations. You know we have supported the work of the church in many places around the globe. We ourselves were foreigners in another country for the first year of our marriage. In no way is the love for our nation exclusive, but our first national loyalty is to the one that has given us so many freedoms and privileges as citizens. 

Sadly, between the era of individual nations and the return of Christ, there will be another “globalist” society. One that is ruled by a man. This is prophesied in Scripture so we know it is coming. We may lose our national identity and sovereignty, as many nations will. It will appear as if peace and world harmony have come, but it will be a false peace. Does that mean we just accept it and go along with it? No, of course not. It will be a time of great wickedness unlike we have ever seen.  

For many years, our nation has been making a beeline in the direction of globalism. It has been purposefully driven, mostly unchallenged, and in many ways ignored. Its ultimate destination would have been deadly in regard to our identity and sovereignty as a nation. But for now, we have a window of opportunity to turn our crash course around. Whether you realize it or not, we are on a battleship fighting for the heart and soul of who we are as a nation. It is a spiritual war primarily but with many earthly ramifications. Are you aware of it?

The national course correction we have embarked upon, and need to continue, is severe. It seems extreme. But if you look behind us, for several years we had been on another extreme path, one that I believe would have led to the destruction of our freedoms and sovereignty. We have mercifully been extended an opportunity to turn it around. Will we fight for it?  

Having said all this, no amount of extensive or broad-based reading and listening to news will give you a complete picture of the true state of the affairs of our nation.  Every one of us has partial and incomplete knowledge at best. Likewise, no amount of Scripture study and knowledge will give you all the answers. In fact, you can probably find a Scriptural reference for just about any stance and opinion you have. What is needed most is discernment, an understanding of the times and seasons in which we live. There are ways to grow in discernment, but that is for another blog post. 

You’ll See a Man

It was a dark time during the Christmas season after my second son was born 30 years ago. I was sleep deprived, in pain, and probably suffering from postpartum depression. There was a popular Christian song at that time called, “You’ll See a Man,” sung by the group, Harvest. Over and over, the words to the chorus rang through my tired head.

You’ll see a man

Acquainted with your sorrows

You’ll see His eyes

Sharing in your tears.

You’ll see His arms

Never lost their hold on you.

Lift your eyes, you’ll see the Lord

I wondered, “Why did the songwriter pen it that way — you’ll see a MAN?” I concluded he was emphasizing the humanity of Jesus so we would know He can and does relate to us on all levels. I needed to hear that and wanted to know more so I broke open my Bible and began to study for myself the humanity of Jesus. What I discovered stunned me and remains with me to this day. There are so many rich aspects to Jesus’ humanity; let me share just a couple of the things I learned.

Jesus identified with us in our humanity by calling Himself the Son of Man. In the gospels, that title was used 81 times, but only by Jesus, and only referring to Himself. He used that phrase when talking about His work, His suffering, His future glorification, and His second coming. In all these things, He identified as a human being. That is why “He is not ashamed or embarrassed to introduce us as his brothers and sisters!” (Hebrews 2:11 TPT). He is one of us. 

Especially since I had just given birth, it was interesting for me to discover that a baby will only possess the mitochondria inherited from the woman’s egg at conception. In other words, the genetic pathway of mitochondrial DNA can only be traced through the woman and not through the man, a well-known fact in forensic science. Like all humans born, Jesus inherited the mitochondrial DNA of his mother. This explains how Jesus was truly a human; He wasn’t just identifying as human in a notional way. He had inherited all the DNA of his mother, making him a human being. 100% human and 100% God.  

When we are in physical or emotional pain, extreme exhaustion, or at our wits’ end and tempted to despair, it helps to know that Jesus was completely human; and therefore, He is sympathetic and compassionate towards us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 HCSB). 

Jesus is fully God and fully man, united in one person forever! He didn’t become a man for just 33 years and then go back to the way things were before His incarnation. Although He was always God, He took on a body permanently and forever became the God-Man when He was conceived in Mary’s womb. However, since His resurrection, He has a glorified body, like ours will be someday, but it’s a body nonetheless. Even right now, as you are reading this, He is at the right hand of the Father, as the God-Man, interceding for you. When this understanding broke upon me, I cried out, “Now that’s a God I can love!”    

Thirty years have passed since that long, cold winter with a newborn and a toddler and a heart that implored, “God, do you see me?” But the revelation of the permanent, remarkable change that Jesus undertook for us in His incarnation remains with me forever. 

Scripture for Meditation: “This is why he had to be a Man and take hold of our humanity in every way. He made us his brothers and sisters and became our merciful and faithful King-Priest* before God; as the One who removed our sins to make us one with him. He suffered and endured every test and temptation, so that he can help us every time we pass through the ordeals of life” (Hebrews 2:17,18 TPT).

* The Aramaic can be translated “so that he would be the nurturing Lord of the king-priests.”

~ Janet Mueller

Parable of the Good Patriot

A great nation was going through a presidential election when it fell among thieves. They stripped her of legitimate votes, beat her up through false media reports, and fled, leaving her half dead. An elected Democrat official happened to be going down that road. When he saw what happened, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, an elected Republican official, when he arrived at the same place and saw her, passed by on the other side. 

But a citizen on his journey came up to her, and when he saw the nation in a state of distress, he had compassion. He went over to her and bandaged her wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he spoke the truth of what happened during the election, encouraged her that in the final say, truth would prevail, and spoke up on her behalf in every sphere of influence. He called his legislators and put their feet to the fire to take action. He gathered with others in rallies to call for the stopping of the thieves. He prayed for the recovery of this great Republic and for free and fair elections now and in the future. He put his money where his mouth was and donated to the cause and said, “Take care of her.”  

Which of these three do you think proved to be a patriot to the nation who fell into the hands of the robbers?