TAXES—As always, I’m looking for some inspiration for this week’s blog. *Sigh.* It seems the main topic of conversation around the house this week has been taxes. Bob’s been dealing with receipts, spreadsheets, Turbo Tax, the tax laws and headaches all week as he’s worked on our taxes. This is the first year in a long time where he is considered “self-employed” since he works as an independent agent of a Canadian firm. It makes paying our taxes complicated—and ouch! It hurts! We have to come up with quite a hefty sum in the next couple weeks.
We’ve all heard Ben Franklin’s quote “But in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes. Will Rogers went on to say, “The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” And Mark Twain put his own spin on it when he said, “The only difference between a taxman and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”
Ugh! So, writing about taxes was not exactly inspiring to me this week! No one wants to think about taxes, let alone read about them as part of a devotional! And what can I say, anyway? “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?” (Matthew 22:21) We pay our taxes because Jesus says to pay them. Period. It hurts. We dread tax time (unless we’re getting a refund!) but we pay our taxes because it is the right thing to do.
And then it occurred to me—Thank the Lord, we have an income on which to pay taxes! The people of Japan have been on my heart and mind for the last few weeks, and the thought of hundreds of thousands of people who have lost not only their homes and all their earthly possessions, but also their livelihoods, burdens me. Many thousands more will lose their jobs and incomes in the coming weeks and months as the result of the ongoing calamities with the nuclear devastation. Millions—no, billions more around the world deal daily with extreme poverty making only a pittance, if anything, and suffering the lack of decent food, water, shelter, medical care… And I have the audacity to complain about the income taxes we pay?
We have been without an income from time to time—temporarily—but never have we been without food or shelter. And we do get something for our tax dollars after all. Sure, there is a lot of waste going on by an enormous government that is out of control. We are forced to pay for things sometimes that we cannot in good conscience support. Welfare rolls are inflated with people that ought to be working rather than cheating the system; money goes into corrupt pockets; big corporations get away with paying no taxes, while we struggle to pay what we owe. Still, we have highways and schools and hospitals; help for the elderly, the truly poor and sick and for people like Robbie; military security, and so on. So today I will thank the Lord for taxes—and a country and life that has me living in comfort, if not wealth. Thank You, Father, from Whom all blessings flow.
TANZANIA—I’ve been corresponding by e-mail this week with one of our missionaries who ministers in Tanzania, Africa. His name is BJ Schultz and, along with his wife Cathy and five children, he is church planting in the little village of Kingereka. I was working on a Powerpoint presentation for our church called “Spotlight on Missions” featuring their family and I wanted to include a map of Tanzania showing where Kingereka is located. I could not find Kingereka on any map, or even on Google Earth, so I e-mailed BJ and asked “Where exactly are you?” I knew it was near the town of Moshi, which is on the map, but I did not know in which direction to put the little dot for Kingereka.
BJ answered with a link to Google Earth that had me locating Kingereka not by its own name, but by the name of the church he is planting, International Baptist Church! How cool is that! (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Google Earth, it is a map of the entire earth that is put together by photographs from satellites in outer space. I can type in my address and actually zoom in and look down on my own rooftop, yard, garage, etc. and then type another address (like my mom’s condo, or my daughter’s house in Alabama) and “fly” to that place. The other day I flew via my couch in my own living room to Tanzania and looked down on the spot where that tiny church in that tiny village in the country of Tanzania is located and could see exactly where it was! Amazing!
Even more amazing is the fact that our Heavenly Father looks down on us always without benefit of satellites; in real time, not little snapshots; undeterred by cloud cover or a canopy of trees or roofs; seeing not just my physical body but right into my heart and my thoughts and my soul. He not only sees us, but He watches over us, interacting and caring for us and meeting our needs. I am not one-dimensional to Him, a microscopic blip on this planet, but someone whom He loves with an everlasting love. It is a little freaky, maybe, to think of satellites looking down on us from outer space, but it is comforting, exhilarating, wonderful to know that God Himself never slumbers, never sleeps but is always watching over me! Psalm 121:3, 4 says, “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” He tells us in Matthew 10:29-31, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (NLT)
Modern technology boggles the mind, sometimes, but it is NOTHING compared to the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of our great Creator, or the relationship I can have with Him!
A TABLE—I’ve been looking for a new table for our sun porch for some time. I love the one that is out there now. It is a nice octagon shape, glass-topped with oak trim, and goes well with the other furniture out there. Unfortunately, Bob dropped something on it last year and put a big crack right across the top. I could not replace it right away so I threw a pretty tablecloth over it, but I was afraid to set anything heavy on top of it. Now with the Naranjos coming in a couple months and probably staying with us for some time, I decided I’d better step up my efforts to find a new table. I don’t want to take the chance that one of the kids will lean on it and go crashing through and possibly get cut.
I finally found one this week for an excellent price. Now that Bob is through with the taxes, maybe he will put it together for me. I am looking forward to using it now that spring weather is just around the corner. What a sweet place to have lunch, with the sun shining in and breezes blowing through! I can hardly wait! And even better will be when I have my grandchildren gathered around that table for lunch or to play a game or to do home school out there! It will get a great deal of good use this year, I am sure!
Gathered ‘round the table—those are precious words to a parent or grandparent. How we look forward to having our family all under our roof again! When both daughters are home with all their children and their spouses, we are actually too many to get around one table at the same time. There are sixteen of us now! Usually we will have the adults at the dining room table, and depending on the weather, let the kids sit in the kitchen or out on the sun porch. It would be nice to have one really big table where we could all sit together, but actually we love hearing the laughter and fun coming from the kids’ table as the cousins enjoy one another and Grandma’s good cookin’! It’s fun to hear the children’s conversation when they think the grown-ups aren’t listening!
Psalm 128:1-4 actually speaks to the blessing of having family gathered around the table. “Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.” Joy and blessings to the man (and woman) that live for, and honor, and glorify the Lord! It is but a miniscule foretaste of the joy we will experience when we gather with the family of God around the table at the marriage supper of the Lamb someday in Heaven! “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:9)