Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve!

One reason I wanted to read the Bible was that I found myself reading more books about the Bible than the actual Bible itself!  That doesn't seem right.  Now, more than ever, I read more books about the Bible, but I don't feel so bad about it.  Commentators and theologians and people way more spiritually advanced than me really shed light on some things that I normally wouldn't pick up on at all.  Take Beth Moore, for instance.  She will take a verse I've read a thousand times and believe to have sucked dry of any additional possible meaning and BAM!  She'll turn the verse on its head to give it a completely fresh new meaning for me.

Right now I'm reading Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado.   He talks about the importance of getting to know Jesus so we can become more Christ-like.  Not surprisingly, Lucado advocates reading the Bible every day.  He advises: "Study the Bible a little at a time... He [God] provides 'a command here, a command there.  A rule here, a rule there.  A little lesson here a little lesson there' (Isa. 28:10).  Choose depth over quantity.  Read until a verse 'hits' you, then stop and meditate on it."

The verse that "hit" me in Amos was Chapter 4, verse 5: "'Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings- boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,' declares the Lord." 

Totally irrelevant for the new year, right?  So let me leave you with Genesis 27:28 instead, "May God give you heaven's dew and earth's richness- an abundance of grain and new wine."

See you in 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Word Became Flesh

I feel like I haven't been to church in a hundred years.  We were just there on Christmas Eve, but does that seem like it was months away?!  The truth is, I haven't been to my church and heard my pastor in too, too long!  Luckily, I can tune into his podcasts which I did today while I scrubbed my floors.  His message yesterday was great- here is the whole message if you want to scrub your floors too: Experiencing God's Love

Here is a blurb from the end of the sermon that I loved:

The Word became flesh.  The Word is standing in front of us today and he calls our name.  You see, as we read the Bible we’re not just acquiring knowledge.  When we invite you to be reading your Bible as a spiritual discipline we’re not just inviting you to acquire religious knowledge. Jesus begins to emerge from that Scripture.  And suddenly we are reading more than words; we are experiencing a person.  Something real is happening; more than our thinking is being effected; we’re being touched, we’re being changed at the deepest levels of our being, it is not an idea the word coming into our heads, it is a person communicating with us.  Flesh.  The Scripture comes alive because the Word became flesh.  Jesus steps out of those pages and into our lives….
He is the God who became real so we could experience his transforming love.  Jesus is not just a truth to believe in, he is a person to be experienced...

Does that make you want to tear into your Bible or what?!  Our God wants a relationship with us and the Bible is our very best tool for making that happen.  Besides sending Jesus, I would argue Scripture is the most awesome gift God gave us.  All the more reason to get my face in there!  I hope you'll join me in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Next?

Post Christmas is so gloriously overwhelming.  Suddenly all the excitement is over and you're standing in a sea of wrapping paper and tape and all the chores you've put off until "after the holidays" wash over you like a tidal wave.  Then, your husband says something like, "what should we do for dinner?" and the thought of scaring up something for your family to eat nearly does you in?  Anybody else?

But mostly I think it's the fun kind of overwhelming.  The kids are happily (and quietly!) playing with their new toys; I blissfully ignore the empty refrigerator to play with my new toys, and we are all together, which almost never happens.  We're still glowing that Christmas glow.

Still, the looming question remains, "what next?"  With all my "to do" stuff, but also with Bible reading.  Good news!  I have a plan.  I've decided to go back and reread the book of Amos (of all things).  My pastor suggested it a while back for our justice ministry, so Amos it is!  Then it's back to the Gospel, because I just can't get enough of that Savior of ours!

So there it is.  If nothing else, I have a plan for my Bible!  That's one thing down!  And I sort of feel like brainstorming that little plan is plenty to accomplish today... I think it's back to playing Trouble with my kids.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

That's A Wrap!

This may go down in history as the most frantic Christmas ever for our family.  We have been without power for three days, so we had to cancel Christmas with my in-laws (they were supposed to come to our house today, but I'm willing to bet a Christmas ham is less inviting when it hasn't been cooked).  We are staying with my parents, but stupidly only packed for one day ("It's Christmas!  We won't be without power for more than one day!"), so we're doing lots of laundry and I may or may not be wearing my mom's underwear right now.

I spent three hours yesterday at urgent care with my little middle, who apparently was on the brink of pneumonia.  My brother and sister-in-law (also staying here with my parents) were both struck with the stomach flu last night and are currently fast asleep on the bathroom floor.  Probably not with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.  The good news is that their basement didn't flood... mine did.  So my husband is at our frigid house dealing with that.

We made a small attempt to be stressed out, but truthfully?  We know these are tiny, tiny issues in the grand scheme of things.  Please don't mistake this for complaining.  You've never seen a merrier bunch of power outage refugees!

Also, there is a spring in my step and an extra dollop of joy in my heart today (and never mind that my 2 year old got bit in the face by a dog yesterday!) because I have finished reading the Bible!  Of course, when I say I'm finished reading the Bible, I don't mean I'm finished reading the Bible.  It's like a delicious Christmas cookie... I can't just put it down! But I did wrap up Revelation last night!  I was so scared to read that final book, but the truth is I didn't even comprehend enough of it to be worried!  Honestly, the few parts I did understand seemed more comforting than anything.

Merry Christmas all.  I pray you are healthy and happy and have running water!  Have a joyful, merry day celebrating our Savior's birth.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Joy of Christmas

Here is something that totally made my day: one of my little Sunday school guys told his mom that for Christmas he wants a new Bible.  Can you even?  A four year old asking for a Bible?  I could just die of happiness.  Maybe one day you'll be reading his Bible blog! 

Another thing that made me crazy happy was that we finally put our tree up today!!  Finally!  We are not usually this late, but... this year we are, I guess!  We won't make it a habit.  Although it was worth the wait, because we found the most darling little tree farm just minutes from our house!  Here are the girls assisting (watching) Jim cut the tree:

 
 
And here are the handsome fellows who took us out to find our tree:


Even though I'm not reading about Jesus' birth in the Bible right now, I don't have to look far to find the peace and hope that we feel reading the Christmas story.  Here are a couple of my favorites from today's reading in Colossians:

"For in him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:16-17) 

"When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4)

"...God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken in away, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)

"These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Colossians 2:17)

You are all in my prayers tonight, Friends!  I pray you will find joy in whatever part of the Bible you are in these days!



Friday, December 13, 2013

Love Herds

When I was in high school, my parents bought us our first "real" pet. (No offense, Splinter the Hamster. R.I.P. little guy)  A dog, Tobie.  Tobie was a Border Collie and a darn good one.  We didn't have sheep, so he herded us, which was maddening- it really just seemed he was underfoot all the time.  Then, when I moved out and was married, my husband and I purchased (on sale!) Allie, a Sheltie... another herding dog!  I just love a working dog, even if they always want to back me into a corner (Tobie), or get a little barky (Allie).

Allie and Tobie meeting for the first time.
It's no secret there are about a bajillion shepherding references in the Bible.  Biblegateway.com provided 118 results when I typed "shepherd" into their search engine (but only 23 in the New Testament).  In Acts 20:28, Luke points out the Holy Spirit makes Christians shepherds; and in his gentle, but firm hand, writes, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock."

Unlike collies, I don't know that people are genetically coded to shepherd, but I think being filled with the Holy Spirit trumps natural disposition anyway.  I'm not going to lie here, it completely freaks me out to think of myself as a protector of the church.  I'm not exactly... fierce.  But when I think about the "wolves" descending on my church, or on any church?  That stirs up some animalistic anger in me.

The Wolf is after our churches and it's up to us to protect them.  This is not the time to be a little lap dog, but a guard dog protecting our beloved sheep.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's The Season For Gifts

Here is something I've learned about myself in this year of Bible reading: my favorite verses are the one sentence commands.  Romans is a treasure trove of quick and easy to remember verses!  Glory!  Some of my favorites are the Love in Action wisdoms in chapter 12: 9-18.  We have a little chalkboard by the door that I write verses on and read to the girls when we walk out of the house.  I try to change it up and get pieces of the whole Bible, but Romans is up there more than any other book.  I'm not even offended it's called Romans and not Rowomans!

My next chalkboard verses need to be 12:6-8: We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

I'm totally enamored.  Whoever said kids don't come with a handbook, need to pick up a Bible.  I'm totally going to use those verses for years to come!  "Use your gifts!"  "Pursue your gifts!" "Everyone has different gifts!"  And to myself: "Maybe softly closing doors just isn't that daughter's gift!"  I like to say when God was handing out patience (or soft spoken voices, or math skills, or musicality), I was in line for big thighs!  God is so good and so brilliant to give us all different gifts, isn't he?!  Imagine what a cluster it would be if we were all just crazy encouraging all the time... cheerleaders would have much stiffer competition at tryouts!  Or if we were all leaders?  Disaster!  All that about too many chiefs...

I'm so thankful for your awesome gifts!  Shoot, I'm even thankful for my substantial legs!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Good Will To Men

If I haven't made it clear with my incessant blabbering about Christmas, let me just drive this home one more time.  I love love love Christmas!!!  This whole month!  The Baby Jesus most of all, but also: the carols, the decorations, the shopping, the gift wrapping, the bell ringers, the generosity, the camaraderie ("Oh, are you also looking for an ugly sweater?"), and the family togetherness!  Put it all together and I'm pretty weepy for most the month.  It's an emotional time of year.

Sadly, I know it's an emotional time of the year for many, many people, but not in a good way.  Family members celebrating their first Christmas without someone they love are struggling to make it through a season they used to look forward to.  Loneliness, depression, and hopelessness are magnified at Christmas.  Hearts are breaking every day we open another window on our Advent calendars.

Cheery, aren't I?

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks about God's unwavering compassion for us; his ability to comfort us. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  As usual, Paul is calling us to action.  This time it is to recycle the comfort we receive from God and pass it on to our distressed brothers and sisters.  Tis the season for peace and joy, but also for comforting the suffering.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Little Miss Don't-Know-It-All

It's December!!  It's go time people!  So far this year we've been teaching Old Testament stories in Sunday school, but December 1st we jumped right into the Christmas story, starting with Gabriel appearing to Mary.  The Christmas story is my very favorite story to teach.  Even at age four, our little pupils know the story really well, but it's still easy to surprise them with tidbits like, the wise men didn't actually show up for another couple years after Jesus' birth!  Or the fact that the Bible doesn't actually specify a donkey bringing Mary and Joseph into Bethlehem.  Pow!  Their little minds are blown, just like that!  Because the kids don't know everything. 

Which brings me to Acts 18:25. Apollos is teaching in the synagogue and introducing people to Christianity.  He "... spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John."  We can only assume Apollos knew Jesus through prayer and that the Holy Spirit filled him, giving him the perfect words to bring others to Christianity.  He didn't know everything, Priscilla and Aquila gave him further information, but the truth is, they didn't know everything either.  We don't have to know everything!

I don't know about you guys, but I'm often scared to get into any kind of religious debate, or even amicable conversation, because I know I won't have all the answers.  The good news is, we don't have to know every single thing.  It's helpful to know Scripture and it's necessary to know Jesus, but we will never ever have all the details... and that's okay.  We can still be effective.  We can still bring people to Jesus.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

CAPS LOCK

Eeeeeee!  I started putting out Christmas decorations today!!  Normally I make myself wait until the day after Thanksgiving, but there has to be some allowance for the lateness of Thanksgiving this year, right?  One of my very favorite moments of the entire year is putting my nativity scene on the mantle with my girls.  (I get all cheesy and traditional around Christmas, you should just know.)  The mantle isn't fully decorated yet, but here is the scene:

Do you see baby Jesus?  Isn't he sweet as pie?
I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!  And speaking of speaking in all-caps, can we just take a moment to love Paul?  This line is actually in the Bible and I didn't even know it: "See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!" (Galations 6:11)  He kills me!

In his large handwriting, Paul goes on to discuss circumcision.  The old Julie would have skimmed over this part because if ever something didn't relate to me?  It would be this particular debate.  Now I can see how this IS relevant to me; not circumcision exactly, but the main point that "... what counts is the new creation."  New life in Jesus- it's for everyone!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Five Awesome Chapters

I'm cooking with peanut oil now, Friends!  The New Testament is a blur of baptism, Holy Spirit, church plants, and miracles!  Of course it's not all so pleasant; our disciples are being flogged, imprisoned, and even arguing with each other (I'm looking at you Paul and Barnabas!)  Next to the Old Testament, which covers hundred and hundreds of years, the NT is clipping along like a zippy, ordained sports car.

I need to take a minute to try to express my love for the book of James.  Be still my beating heart.  I was indifferent, until I did Beth Moore's Mercy Triumphs study on the book.  She pointed out that Martin Luther wanted James removed from the Bible, and maybe that's why I love it so.  I love a rogue... book?  Actually, it carries a lot of weight with me because it calls me out (loose lips sink ships, Julie!  See James 1:26), yes, but also because of who wrote it.

Who knows how things were in the Joseph and Mary household, but in most homes siblings know each other.  Really, really know one another.  And by the way, James was Jesus' brother.  I did not know that most my life, but the book has more clout for me now!  Couldn't you write about topics important to your siblings better than anybody else?  I could.  My brother and sister could.  They would also include a lot of jabs about what a nerd I am and may bring up a bad haircut or two, but still.

James holds us accountable- he calls Christians to action.  It's not enough to say you have faith: "...faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:17)   Chapter 1, verse 13 comforts me: "... For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;"  James talks about the importance of wisdom: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (James 1:19)

 Every verse is solid gold in James.  I could be here all day giving my favorite verses and soon enough we'd have the entire book of James.  And incidentally, if you do Beth Moore's study, she does have you write out the entire book!

Have a lovely Sunday evening and happy, healthy Thanksgiving week!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Laying On Hands

The church I grew up in was a really traditional Presbyterian church.  Very "King James Version."  Always dresses for the girls, suits for the guys; a lovely choir, but a trumpet was the flashiest instrument we would expect; our "Amens" were only whispered after prayer; clapping was only acceptable after the children's choir sang (and then only if they reaaaaalllly knocked our socks off).  You get the picture.  But don't get me wrong- I love that church!  I love the tradition of it, and the mix of solemnity and joy.  I just want to paint a picture, so you can understand the small culture shock I had when I started attending the church I go to now.

At this church (that I love equally), we rock out a little, we clap, some people (get ready for it.....) raise their arms in jubilation.  Every now and then an "Amen" is loud enough for me to hear a few rows back and not even after a prayer, but in agreement with the pastor!!  Wild, I know.

One thing that I was a bit skittish about at my new church was the laying of hands.  When we collect food for Thanksgiving baskets, school supplies for needy children, Operation Christmas Child, or whatever, the congregation is invited to come up and lay hands on the goods as we pray for the recipients.  I'm not going to lie, this weirded me out a little at first, but it's grown on me.  There's something sweet about physical touch and lovingly praying for a person through an item that they will soon be holding.  I've also taken to holding my daughters' hands when I pray with them.  I just like the physicality of it.

Now I'm reading the book of Acts, and the laying of hands has come up a few times:
Acts 6:6  These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
Acts 8:17  Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13:3  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 28:8  ... And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.

What are your thoughts on laying on hands?  Do you do it at your church?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Take 3!

It's Brooke's last post!  Boo!  Soak up her wisdom now, because after this you're stuck with me again!
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We often miss the people in the church pews who need the love of Jesus just as much as non church-goers.  You could argue it's not evangelism, but sometimes there are people in the church who are struggling just as much as the non-believers.

James 1:27 tells us to look after the widows and the orphans:

WIDOWS: those who have lost their first love, Jesus, and are lacking passion and hope; most suffering from depression.

ORPHANS: people who have felt abandoned by God and are left striving to prove something, fighting for attention and love, not knowing how valuable they are.

Often we want people to know Jesus, so we focus on outreaches and forget to really hear the hearts of those beautiful people we see every Sunday.

Take a minute after service to ask a sincere "how are you?" and you'd be surprised how quickly people will open up; we're all desperate for relationship, first with Jesus and then with each other!
Follow up on prayer requests during the week give a quick call to that lady in church you haven't seen in a while.

Ask God what He's doing and how you can join him.  The Holy Spirit is always speaking and He's ready to use you as a vessel if you're willing!  Ask Him what He's doing and how you can join him and watch as He uses you to change lives everyday just by being Jesus to those in need!

 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Being Evangelical

As promised!  Here is another guest post by the lovely Brooke!

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Outreach Evangelism is necessary, and I want to urge you to pursue people relationally. People need Jesus - a friend to listen and care for them and we should be a reflection of His heart for them. Take time to ask people how they're doing and let them talk, you'll find you'll be able to insert Jesus with a simple encouragement and as the conversation builds, the door will fling open and you'll be able to share Jesus with them.

BUT practically it's good to know some kinds of people you'll encounter:

"MEAN GOD" These people have heard the message of Jesus but have been delivered a God who's mad, has too many rules, and makes bad things happen, so they've said, "Screw that; if that's who Jesus is, I don't want Him."

These people might need you to explain God isn't to blame for the bad in this world; the devil is fighting for souls and his mission is to kill, steal, and destroy. (John 10:10.) Once they understand we simply live in a fallen world you can start to give examples of how God ultimately has power over it all and He makes all things work for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

Share stories of ways the enemy has tried to ruin you and how God came to save you and granted you victory!

"THERE'S GRACE" They're okay with where they are, most don't know the 'more' of God and don't care for the fellowship of believers. They acknowledge He's real and that's about it. "I don't go to church or read the Bible, but I pray every night and know He is real."

These people need to know about the more, and if you want to effectively grab their attention you have to be pursuing it yourself. Most of the individuals in this category are walking in sin, not understanding every area of sin is a love deficiency and a counterfeit of God's true intention.

For example; someone struggling with lust and adultery doesn't know intimacy was created by God and intended for marriage to help us understand Him as the bridegroom and us as the bride. The word for "lay with" in the Old Testament is Hebrew for "to know." Sex is the reflection of vulnerability and deep knowing, hence why relationships are always more of a mess when sex if involved. Of course the devil wants to destroy intimacy so people would never know God intimately so they would never know how much they're loved.

The devil offers small moments of satisfaction that slowly kill us and eventually people will find this to be true and they'll want to feel the real love God intends, a small sacrifice that will always bring life.

THE "ATHEIST" From my experience you will never argue a atheist into the love of God.

Apologetics are important to research and know, but it's far easier to pray continually for God's love to overwhelm them than to argue with someone who's not ready to hear your side anyway. Most of these people have been severely hurt by people in ministry or have felt cheated by God (much like the "MEAN GOD" folks) and have talked themselves into this false theology.

If you continue to show them love and ask deep questions about their childhood and past life experience, you'll be able to minister to their hearts covertly and you'll watch as God works in their lives despite their skewed view of Him.

REMEMBER; There is no formula of how to get people to the saving knowledge of the cross; this is not a script. Continue to ask Jesus throughout the day who needs His love and He will highlight people for you to approach whether it's a family member or the cashier at the supermarket. All God needs is a willing vessel!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Surprise!


I'm so excited right now you guys!  And not because it's semi-final night on DWTS!  I have asked my friend Brooke to write a guest post on evangelism and she agreed!  Brooke is one of the best evangelists I know.  I know it is because of her genuine heart for others.  She doesn't just try to tally up converts; she builds relationships, prays like crazy, and truly cares about people.  Her "life mission is to live a life that reflects Isaiah 61."  She knows what's what when it comes to evangelism you guys.  I can't wait to learn a thing or two from her over the next couple days.  I hope her words speak to you too.

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"It's by the blood of the Lamb and word of your testimony that people are saved" (Rev 12:11) Evangelism is simple: understand what the cross did for you and tell others how the love of Jesus changed your life!  Evangelism isn't about you as a Christian earning your way to heaven, but rather sharing the heart of the Father with those who aren't aware of His goodness.

BUT, I've heard a lot of Christians have a defeated mentality, "Oh Jesus help us, we're no good sinners -have mercy on us, as we try to make it through this life, so we might finally be with you" -?! No wonder no one's coming to church...

To minister the heart of God rightly you have to understand your identity and what God says about you:

Child of God (Romans 8:14-15)
Royalty (1 Peter 2:9)
Friend of God (John 15:15)
Welcome in His house (Eph 2:19)

Once you're walking in the truth the world will be your pulpit. Peace and love overflow and people will notice and they'll come to YOU asking you what it is you have, in which case you have an open door to talk about Jesus freely to a willing audience!

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Tomorrow and the next day, I'll put up posts by Brooke that cover some obstacles we encounter doing evangelical outreach and how to go about the whole intimidating thing!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Painting Jesus

It is windy in mid-Michigan today!!  We've been under tornado watches all evening, and my power has been flickering, so I wanted to check in and wish everyone a happy Sunday while I still can.

I did Painting With A Twist (more like Painting With A Twister in this weather!) for the first time today- it was so fun!  I'll show you my picture if you promise not to laugh.  And only because you can't see the paintings my much more talented friends whipped up! 

My one and only masterpiece.

Oh, it's baby Jesus if you aren't entirely sure what you're looking at.  In any event, it was a blast and I'm definitely going back.  My house will be properly (if not pitifully) decorated in no time!

I hope you have a lovely week; I have an awesome treat in store for you guys this week!  No, I won't be downloading more pictures of my handiwork, it's much, much better than that.  So stay tuned friends!  And Michiganders?  Don't blow away!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Easter in November

Today I spent the morning helping out at my daughter's preschool.  It was fun and hilarious and I drove 80 mph to get home to my Diet Coke because it was exhausting.  Exhausting in the most delightful way possible of course, but seriously.  How preschool teachers make it through two and a half hours every other day without Mountain Dew pumping intravenously into their system is a mystery to me.  I love each and every one of those munchkins, and I know!  The kingdom of heaven belongs to them and everything, but I'm out until 2014.  I'll be using every moment until my next visit training for... well, my next visit.

My little preschooler. By herself, harmless.  Armed with 19 friends? Hook up my IV.


In Bible news, it's Good News!  After the heaviness of Jesus' crucifixion, I made it to the joy and hope of the first Easter!  Glory, glory!  I love every word of it, Jesus appearing to Mary, the disciples doubt and then excitement, his healed body, all of it!  Aren't we blessed to celebrate his resurrection every Spring?  I can't wait.  Have you ever read the "Preacher Creature" books by Mike Thaler?  There is one called the Easter Egg Haunt in which a little boy asks his Sunday School teacher why we call Easter, Easter and then jokingly asks if it's because the "Son" rises in the east.  Cute!  Maybe I'll read it to the preschoolers next time I venture in.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life's A Garden, Dig It.

Is anybody else bumming about the pitch blackness we are in by 5:30pm these days?  Even though I know it's coming this time every year, it always sneaks up on me and bums me out.  Not to mention makes me considerably less productive.  Once the girls are asleep, it's all cozy-up in front of the fire (probably with some popcorn- maybe the kettle variety, maybe butter; it depends on the night.) with my laptop (is this the best Pinterest season or what?!), knitting needles, or book until it's time to move my hiney from the couch to the bed.  I sort of love it, I'm not going to lie, but I can't help but remember Matthew 24:42-43:

"But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

And then? I can't help but remember Joe Dirt. 


Remember when he says, "Is this where you want to be when Jesus comes back, making fun of Joe Dirt?"  Weird that any tiny word of the Gospel would remind me of Joe Dirt, but it is what it is!  Just another reason to get my face in the Bible- fingers crossed Jesus returns when I'm reading his very words, or praying over my babies, or doing something worthwhile!  At the very least I hope I'm not indulging in one of my guiltiest pleasures... although I'm happy to share my popcorn if He stops by any night this week.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Good Friday

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. (Mark 15:37)  There is much to be said about these precious pages of God's Word, but at the same time, what can be said?  Jesus' blood told the whole story.  But here are two points that jumped out at me as I read about Jesus' sacrifice.

First, I should mention, it's been a long time since I've read about the crucifixion.  Certainly, I've heard it preached on lots of Good Fridays, but who ever wants to open their Bible and read about Jesus' death?  His resurrection, yes.  Crucifixion, no.  It's become a trend for me to learn something new in these stories I thought I knew so well, and this one was no different.  Take the actual moment of Jesus' death.  The land goes dark, the curtain tears, and... the tombs broke open?!  I do not remember this.  "The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people." (Matt. 27: 52-53)  Will this Bible never cease to amaze me?! 

The other thing that strikes me in the Good Friday chapters of the Bible, are the supporting people.  Pilate's wife, Simon the cross-bearer, the thieves beside Jesus, Joseph who "went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body" (Mark 15:43), and of course the Marys.  For all the wicked in this story, these people bring some comfort to readers aching for our Christ.  They were unexpected friends who came out of the woodwork to do a small favor for a giant King. 



Monday, November 11, 2013

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

First order of business: if you are a veteran reading this, thank you.  It's trite but true; I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  That goes for you too, active soldiers!  I hope you are blessed beyond measure in this life and the next.

Secondly, it is snowing, people.  Actual flakes that are sticking to the ground.  My kids are delighted and played outside all afternoon.  As for me?  I'm cold.

Thirdly, I am in the thick of the Gospel now.  Things are heating up politically and that means Jesus is on the hot seat.  Who would handle this so gracefully?  How could anyone doubt his holiness when it could only be supernatural grace keeping him calm and peaceful and loving even as he is scared beyond what we can comprehend.  One of Jesus' dearest friends is about to hand him over to be brutally murdered and he's speaking of... love?  Friendship? 

I love John 15:15: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."  Don't you feel like a VIP?  Like a big flipping deal?  I mean, how's that for name dropping at a party?  "Your cousin went to kindergarten with K-Stew?  How cool.  I'm only BFFs with the Savior of the WORLD." 

We know what is coming next.  Jesus knew what was coming next.  The disciples seemed to be in a bit of denial about what was coming next.  But there is no denying Jesus is the best friend we'll ever have.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Christianity: Not A Sprint, But A Marathon

This morning I ran my first half marathon!  I couldn't help but remember a book I read by Greg Boyd (Letters From A Skeptic; it is absolutely fantastic) in which Boyd writes to his dad about an ultra marathon he ran.  He explains he feels closest to God when running, and jokes maybe that's because he's so close to death.  I'm certainly not comparing my measly 13 miles to his obscene number, but I kinda get what he's talking about.  It was fun in a torturous kind of way, I think I would do it again (someday).

Speaking of discomfort, how about those pieces of the Gospel where Jesus gives the disciples a run-down of the end of times?  Let me just say, it makes me squirm a little.  But why?  I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I know heaven is unfathomably amazing, but still.  Still, Jesus' description of the end of times bums me out, I avoid Revelation, and I just don't know what to do with the whole thing.  Wars, natural disasters, terror... I can't be the only one a bit nervous, right? Am I the only one? 

First things first, if it freaks me out, I clearly need to know more.  Knowledge is power, right?  Plus, I love how brutally honest Jesus is.  He doesn't want to sugarcoat things for us.  Nobody ever accused him of being a sugarcoater, I don't think.  But that's how we know we can also trust him when he leaves us with the comfort that , "...when these things begin to take place... your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28)

As uncertain as I am about the end of times, I do know I'll be running just as fast as I can straight to Jesus when we "... see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 21:27)



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I've Got To Hand It To Pinterest

Have you been enjoying everybody's "Thankful in November" statuses on Facebook?  I love reading them, especially later in the month when everyone has already been thankful for the biggies like family and health.  It's a wonderful time of the year!  Another thing I love about this time of year is.... Pinterest!  The holiday season makes me Pinzy! (Pinterest crazy.) 

While I was combing through some gorgeous and completely out of my crafty league holiday mantels, I came across this thing I pinned a while back.  It was originally pinned by Courtney (visit her blog- it's awesome! www.courtneydefeo.com).  Maybe you've seen it on Pinterest?  The idea is to trace your kids' hands and write a verse on each one that you want to pray over that child every day for a year (or a month, or whatever).  Here's how my version turned out:


They aren't as cute as the Pinterest version (hers were laminated, and I just don't see that happening in this house), but they'll do!  Here are the verses I chose for my girls:

Girl 1: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests with this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.  Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Girl 2: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Girl 3 (A bit shorter verse because she has the itty-bitty hands): Be always humble, gentle, and patient.  Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Ephesians 4:2 (Good News Translation)

Do you have specific verses you pray over your kids?  If so, let's hear it!

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Slew of Devos

Oo!  I feel like I hit the jackpot tonight, you guys!  I was reading my daily dose of Scripture (I'm still pounding away at it via my chronological reading plan on Biblegateway.com), when I noticed "Devotionals" on the sidebar.  I gave it a click and POW!  All the devos you could ever want!  There are devotionals for men, women, kids, couples, parents, leaders, etc. 

Do yourself a favor and give it a click!  Here's the link: http://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/

I browsed the list and finally decided to subscribe to Quest Bible: "Answers to the tough questions you've always had about the Bible."  I guess I'm a little late to the party, some of this information probably would have been helpful as I labored through some of the Old Testament stuff, but better late than never, right?  Let me know which of the devotionals look most interesting to you! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Rich Guy

Let's hear it for Daylight Savings Time!  What did you do with your extra hour?  I'm not going to lie, I napped.   But only for a half hour, so I figure I'm still 30 minutes in the black!  In other exciting weekend news, Michigan State beat the University of Michigan yesterday!  My husband is a student at MSU, so these things are important to me now.  I have to say, I especially like buying cute MSU apparel.  And the winning is fun too!

The past few days, I've been reading the same few parables and stories in each book of the Gospel.  I just had to note the Rich and the Kingdom of God story.  This one used to make me so uncomfortable (actually, it still does.) but I caught a phrase this time in Mark's telling that I just adore.  A man is asking Jesus how he can "inherit eternal life."  Jesus explains he must keep the commandments; when the man says he has kept the commandments his whole life, "Jesus looked at him and loved him...."  (Mark 10:21)

He loved him!  I liken this to my baby trying to properly buckle her car seat.  She's so darling to try, and I love her ambition, but I just look at her lovingly, thinking, "Sweet girl.  You can't do this without me.  I love that you're trying, I always want you to try, but you'll never get it on your own!"  I hope this dear man didn't completely lose hope, I hope he kept doing his very best; but if everything went horribly downhill for the rest of his life, Jesus had looked at him and loved him.  And that was worth more than all the riches he could ever have.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two By Two? Or Not!

Was Noah the first one out of the Ark?
No, he came fourth out of the ark

A little Friday funny for you!  Appropriate because yesterday my friend asked me how many of each animal Noah took with him on the ark.  When I was little the big trick was to ask, "How many commandments did God give Noah?" and of course the sneaky answer is ZERO because he gave the commandments to Moses.  Remembering this, I answered cautiously, "two?  Yes, two of each animal."  And I was wrong!  She pointed out Genesis 7:2-3.

Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.

How did I miss that?!  There were actually fourteen of the clean animals!  It seems like I should know that.  I am both anxious and thrilled about this revelation.  What other obvious points am I missing?  Until yesterday I may have argued I knew "Noah's Ark" better than any other story in the Bible.  Wrong!  On the other hand?  How cool that the Bible is always the same, yet always different.  God just reveals fabulous little tidbits to us every now and then as He sees fit.  Brilliant.  So next year when we're reading the Bible who knows what we will glean?!  So much to look forward to!  No joke!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Give Me A Break

Yesterday my parents were in town and gave me the day off.  I repeat, the day off.  It was glorious.  I left and did a couple things I had to do and then a couple things just for fun!  I took advantage of verbs I haven't seen since 2007; I lollygagged and meandered and browsed!  Lunch by myself was bizarrely quiet; nobody spilled anything, nobody stole my food, I didn't have to take anybody to the bathroom and then I didn't have to take anybody else to the bathroom.  It was truly heavenly.

We moms need a break now and then, yes?  Those tiny little kiddos are precious and lovable, but come on.  We're only human!  Last year somebody laminated this verse for me and it sits by my kitchen where I see it whenever I'm doing dishes, grabbing a washcloth to wipe a sticky kid down, or dumping curdled milk from a bottle that's been missing for two months.  Thanks to this little laminated verse my kids have been spared many an unnecessary scolding:

He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young. 
Isaiah 40:11

I especially love that bit about God gently leading those that have young.  It's music to my ears, and a spiritual break for my soul.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

God's Guidance

What a busy couple days!  Yesterday we celebrated my baby's second birthday.  I think she had a nice day.  The only thing in the world she wanted was a cupcake and I was able to make that happen, so... success!  Charlotte is your typical busy two year old.  Today she had a potty training accident on a paperback book, dumped the dog's food into her full water dish, squirted my stovetop cleaner all over herself and my floor, pulled all her clothes out of her dresser, and fell off a barstool.  That was the first half hour she was awake.  I spend a lot of time following her around and gently (or not) reminding her, "That's not for babies!" "No, no." "Charlotte, be gentle!" "Be careful! That will hurt you."  Often I have to pick her up and remove her (yank her) from whatever it is she's "exploring."

Our God is so good to give us free will.  It must take all kinds of supernatural restraint to watch us move closer and closer to making a huge mess, and not just take the stovetop cleaner away from us (or whatever- you know what I mean).  He may need to lovingly correct us with a holy tap on our misbehaving bottoms every now and then, but he gives us the free will and the responsibility to make our own decisions.  It may not always seem awesome, but we know in our heart of hearts that we couldn't have it any other way. 

I could not be further from perfect.  I make so many mistakes and poor decisions every day!  But with God's help, I'm hoping to take some baby steps.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mi Casa Es Su Casa

Are parties fun, or what?  There is nothing I love more than inviting my favorite people over for some food and fun.  But I hate pre-party prep.  The vacuuming, the dusting, the window cleaning, the stressing about food (is it enough? is it yummy? is anyone allergic? is anyone vegan?), it goes on and on!  Sometimes my husband threatens to not let me have people over anymore because HE claims I get crabby!  Moi?  Crabby? 

Yes.  Very, very crabby. A big crab with a clean house.

Do you feel this way?  Are you torn between wanting the fun of friends and fellowship and the dread of doing copious amounts of cleaning beforehand?  If so, welcome to Club Martha.  Dear Martha.  It's stressful enough having visitors, but the King of kings?  Yes, I imagine she was a bit flustered and wanting all to be right.  I love Jesus' line: " 'Martha, Martha' [he says her name twice! Does he do that anywhere else in Scripture? I don't know, but I love it.] the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one'...." (Luke 10: 41-42).

Is it just me, or do you sort of feel like Jesus himself is giving us permission to skip the pre-company stove cleaning?!  I'm sure that wasn't exactly his point, but maybe it was just a little.  Fellowship is important.  Old friends are important, new friends are important, opening our Christian homes to people is important.  Total disinfection not necessary. 

So swing by!  Come on over!  Embrace my messy and chaotic home.  I can't promise gourmet food or that you won't step on a Polly Pocket, but I can guarantee pretzels, Diet Coke, and bad puns.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Wish For A Fish

I am not a good fisherman.  For one thing, I don't like slimy things, so touching worms and fish are out.  Secondly, if the water is wavy, I'll probably puke.  Lastly, it's supposed to be a quiet sport and I am not quiet.  My husband loves fishing; he can get over my slime-aversion and even my puking, but he can't tolerate my scaring the fish away with constant chatter.  Consequently, he's always claiming "there's not enough room in the boat" for me.  It could be a cruise ship with his shadow as his only fishing buddy and there would just not be enough room.

My point is, I'm not a good at fishing for fish and that's ok.  Sadly, I'm also not great at fishing for men as Jesus instructed us to do, and that's not ok.  Case in point, last Saturday I had this conversation with the grocery store cashier:

Cashier: "What are you up to this weekend?"
Me: "Oh, just the usual, church tomorrow and then taking my daughter to hockey practice."
Cashier: "Church, huh? I gave up on that when I was twelve.  My parents always took me to weird churches with creepy people."
Me: "That's so sad!  I love my church." (Eeeeeek!  What do I say?!  How do I not freak this guy out?!  How do I not freak out?!  How many people are in line behind me?!  Did he remember to scan my coupons?!)
Cashier: "I work Sundays anyway."
Me: "Oh. Welllll, our church has a Monday service." (Am I being pushy?  Am I being pushy?!?!)
Cashier: "Really?  I thought church was just a Sunday thing."
Me: "I think lots of churches know how hectic weekends can be and are starting to offer services during the week too." (I have never successfully talked a person into coming to church!  Is this it?  My first fish?!  If he were a real fish, what kind would he be? A trout? Salmon?  Focus! Focus!)
Cashier: "That'll be $125.47."

I paid up and took off.  Without even mentioning my church's name.  Duh.  He was circling my worm and I just reeled in, or dropped my pole, or whatever best fits this little metaphor.  Obviously, I have enlisted a team of women who shop at this grocery store A LOT and they'll be on the lookout for him.  He's going to be so confused when all these SAHMs start coming in and laying hands on him!  Just kidding.  They're way better at fishing for men than I.

I guess I'll just keep trolling and hope I eventually get a bite.  In any event, this involves much less slime and vomit, but lots of chatter!  And that?  I can do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Soul Surfer

Monday in mid-Michigan was a cold, rainy day.  Perfect for watching a movie with my little girls.  We pulled our softest blankets out, put on comfy clothes, and snuggled in for a relaxing afternoon... of watching a girl lose her arm and nearly bleed out and die from a shark attack.  It's the stuff little girls' dreams are made of, right?!  Actually, we were watching Soul Surfer, the Bethany Hamilton story, and I make it sound way more graphic than it was. 

My girls were enraptured.  We haven't stopped talking about sharks, surfing, amputations, or tourniquets for two days.  Bethany Hamilton was only thirteen when she lost her arm in a shark attack, but her story is amazing.  She handled the situation with more bravery and grace than most adults would; her testimony is outstanding.  This darling girl used the publicity from the attack to spread the love of Christ, and she took the Word all over the world.  Someday Bethany Hamilton is going to surf on a gold plated surfboard with Jesus himself hanging ten next to her, I just know it.

Watch it with your family! (I checked it out at our library.)  But if you're watching with your kids, be ready to Google "blood transfusions" and the like for days after.
 This inexplicably makes me want to take up surfing.


Picture credit: tvrage.com

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I love love love when Jesus talks about the little children.  I love Jesus all the time, but it's times like Matthew 18:2 when I like him best.  He seems softer to me in these moments, (yes, even as he speaks about gouging out eyes) and so... approachable.  This is my Jesus.  This is my guy.  Then he gives me a totally doable tip: "...change and become like little children..." 

What?!  Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy!  I'm so childish it would blow your mind!  Silly rhymes?  Check.  Laughing at inappropriate noises?  Check.  Wanting my Mommy?  Double check.  Let the grown-ups have their weird sushi, I'll take a grilled cheese!  Why play Bunco when Candyland is available?!  I watched Wizards of Waverly Place into my 30s for crying out loud!! 

Hm?  What?  That's not exactly what Jesus meant?  That's not at all what he meant?  Well.  I'll keep working on my childlike skills, but in the meantime I'm going to continue to cling to Christ's gentle words from Matthew: "Beware that you don't look down upon a single one of these little children.  For I tell you in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father." (Matt. 18:10)  I love it.  And I believe with all my heart the angels are enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich with our Maker.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Big "If"

If you know me in real life you've probably heard me say I need a prayer thesaurus.  If God were less godly, he would want to smack me with a holy frying pan every time I rev up for a prayer.  Because I use the same phrases, terms, and general vocabulary every time I pray.  And one of my regular faux pas is highlighted in Mark 9 when a boy's father is asks Jesus to drive out a demon.  Verse 22 reads, "... But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

If you can do anything?  Puh-lease.  That guy may not have known the extent of Jesus' power, but I have no such excuse!  My prayers for pity and mercy usually go something like, "if you could blah, blah, blah... wait! Wait! Sorry, there I go again!  Of COURSE you can!  Aughhh!  You know what I meant right?!  Let me try again...."

Do you ever pray like that?  Say something so inane to God?  On  the other hand, I'm not lamely offering to burn down a Samaritan village, James and John!  (Just kidding boys, you did good work here.)

I hope your Monday was lovely and your evening is full of eloquent prayers!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Confessional


Can you imagine if the  name of my whole blog was "The Confessional"?  I bet I'd get a lot more traffic!
Actually, I’m about to confess to you that I can be a not-so-great human being.  Sometimes I don’t like a person.  And instead of trying to like them?  Instead of finding qualities that I could just love in them? I let myself sink deeper and deeper into dislike.  Sometimes, you guys, I look for more reasons not to like them.  Until one day I’m stranded and this person comes along to help and I don’t accept AND am angry at him for being in a position to help me. 

I know.  For shame. 

My point is, the rabbis and Pharisees should have been thanking their lucky stars.  They’ve dedicated their lives to becoming holy men, following some very fancy, complicated laws to a tee in order to achieve rabbi or Pharisee status.  But it’s worth it, because when you’re a rabbi or Pharisee in Israel you get crazy awesome accolades.  But then a young, hip rabbi (Jesus) comes in on his longboard (well, that part isn’t in the Bible, actually) and says all their rule following and suffering through bacon-less meals is for nothing!  And Jesus being Jesus gave them what should have been the loveliest of outs:  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30).

But these gentlemen were looking for any excuse to hate Jesus.  Instead of taking this opportunity to make their lives much easier, they chose to condemn Jesus.  For lots of reasons, like small-mindedness, pride, jealousy…. All kinds of ugly things stopped them from seeing our Jesus for what he was- a Savior.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Suddenly I Seed

Let’s hear it for the seedy parables!  As a Sunday School teacher to four year olds, I hear about seeds a lot.  Often, these little kiddos leave our classroom and I’m certain nothing more than glitter and feathers stuck to them- not our Bible verse, and definitely not the talking points I give them to discuss with their parents.  So I really, really depend on the truth of the seed parables. Because if I’m not planting seeds in these precious little preschoolers than what the heck?  For the sake of my sanity I can’t believe it’s all for naught!
And on this I’m right.  It’s not for nothing, Sunday School teachers! Parents! Seed planters everywhere!  Rejoice!  Jesus Christ backs us up!  History backs us up!  Jesus explains, "… like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”  (Mark 4:31-32)  Our seeds will become mighty oaks!  Lovely fields of mustard!  And if His words aren’t enough, look to your own experience.  I remember specific people planting seeds in me, don’t you?  And look how awesome you turned out!
Kids aren’t the only ones who need seeds, as you know.  New believers and non-believers and life-long Christians all need a seed.  We are commissioned to plant seeds in others and cultivate the ones planted in us.  We need seed!
 
A teeny, tiny mustard seed.

A massive mustard field that is beautiful and productive.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Words of Wisdom

Happy Sunday!  It could not have been a more beautiful fall day here!  We celebrated by going to church, making pumpkin pies, playing outside, and visiting neighbors.  I read my Bible passage aloud to my four year old while we snuggled on the couch, as my baby yelled from her crib and fought her nap.  It was almost ideal.  I hope your Sunday was just as lovely.

My pastor spoke a great word today (you can hear it here); he briefly mentioned getting to know a seemingly unlikeable person better and better until... surprise!  You actually like him!  My mom quotes Abraham Lincoln all the time, "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."  In high school it was so annoying because, "Ugh!  Mom!  Are you even listening?  It's a SHE!  Totally different.  You don't get it at all!" (door slam)  I'm reminded of my mom's wisdom (oh, and Abraham Lincoln's) when I read these words from the wisest one of all:

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that? (Matt. 5:46-47)

It's so much more fun to hang with people we love... and important too!  I'm certainly not about to ditch my besties!  It's so hard to love people who don't seem to appreciate our efforts!  And even harder to love people who are downright nasty!  But it turns out Honest Abe was on to something (and you too, Mama).  Usually if I spend a little time with a person?  I end up liking her in spite of myself.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Now What?

I'm starting a new Bible study and I'm equally excited and terrified about it!  My church is doing Unfinished by Richard Stearns, who you may know as the CEO of World Vision.  I wasn't going to do it because I'm already doing a study (on Deuteronomy, with Beth Moore).  But the truth is, I suffer from severe FOBLO.  You know, Fear Of Being Left Out.  I couldn't stand that the whole church would be in on this action and I'd be clueless.  I'm sure that's the right motivation for starting a study, right?  And I saved a dollar if I bought TWO study guides, so now my husband is doing it with me! (Are you reading, Sweetie? Surprise!)

Plus, Unfinished sounds awesome.  There are snazzy posters plastered around the church reading, "So, you believe in God.  Now what?"  That's a good question that I would like answered, in fact.  As long as the "now what" isn't something too far out of my comfort zone.  Haha.  Something tells me that's not the way it's going to work.

If you are interested in doing the study, or just reading the book here it is:





Have you read Unfinished and/or done the study?  What am I in for?!  What was your "now what?" 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Merlot Down on Jesus' First Miracle

Isn't it frustrating when our kids don't perform on demand?  Do yours do this?  For instance, when your baby (let's pretend it's your first, so it's extra exciting) says, "Mama" loud and clear.  Or "Dada."  Or takes his first tiny step.  Of course you (I) call all the relatives, friends, neighbors, and not-so-close-acquaintances over to see your talented munchkin in action!  And nothing.  Not even a gurgle or coo that could be mistaken for "Mama." No steps.  Nada "Dada." 

And it's all, "Sweetheart, just say it!  Who am I?  What's my name?" and, "Seriously.  She took a step.  She must have some stage fright."  Now with clenched teeth, "Pumpkin?  Baby?  Come to Mama!"  And the door slams as the last guest leaves and baby yells, "Mama!" and runs into your arms.  You know this scenario, right?

I'm just imagining Mary at the wedding with Jesus.  I never really picked up on the... dare I say, tension? going on in this story.  She's reasoning, "Hey, they're low on wine.  Whadda you say we do them a solid?"  And Jesus doesn't want to!  How did I never know that part? "'Woman, why do you involve me?' Jesus replied.  'My hour has not yet come.'" (John 2:4)  And Mary knows what He's capable of and how awesome He is and she can't bear the world not knowing about Him for one second longer!  She just goes for it! "His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'" (John 2:5)

I love how human and motherly she is here.  She knows (at least a piece of) his potential and just can't help herself.  She outs Him and celebrates with a glass of fine, miraculous wine.  Cheers Mary!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

All You Can Eat God

The other day I drove past a local restaurant that had a sign out front: "All you can eat GOD."  Just kidding.  It was actually, "All you can eat COD." But before reason caught up with my eyesight, I thought it was the former!  Wouldn't the Gospel make the most magical buffet?  It's all you can eat, and every time you go for more the dishes are the same, but constantly fresh and sometimes containing a yummy new flavor.

This analogy is making me hungry, so let me make my point.  I've read the Gospel lots of times before, but I still learn something new every time I crack it open.  In my last post I mentioned John the Baptist making straight the way for the Lord- that bit wasn't a blip on my radar in the past!  Jesus' wine-making miracle at the wedding isn't at all what I remember!  I forgot Matthew was originally Levi and how very much I love that he was a tax collector turned full-time disciple.  In fact, his conversion leads to one of my favorite verses: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). 

This works both ways.  Every now and then I come across a verse I underlined before and stare at it wondering why it's important.  I don't ink up my Bible willy-nilly, so I know these words were critical to me at one time in my life, they just aren't quite as relevant right now.  No doubt I'll come back to those underlined verses one day and they'll bring me to my knees.

New stuff every time.  Delicious, filling, fresh, can't-find-it-anywhere-else food for the soul.  And we can gobble it up without ever having to unbutton our pants.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Make Straight the Way

Reading the Gospel chronologically is so cool because it makes it easy to compare and contrast the experiences of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  It brings to light some things I've never noticed.  This phrase for instance:

"Make straight the way for the Lord."

John the Baptist uses these words (or some variation of them) to describe his job in each book of the Gospel.  That is a hard task!  The exact same task we were given!  But think how much harder John had it.  He did not have the power and support of a church behind him; he didn't have the benefit of Jesus already gracing the Earth and rising from the dead.  He didn't have Twitter for pity's sake!

So.

If John the Baptist can spread the word about Jesus, we can do it.  With all the resources the church provides and the support of millions of Christians?  Plus, the historic evidence of Jesus' existence?  We have so much going for us!  We can make straight the way for the Lord!  And we don't even have to dress in camel hair to do it.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Biblical Sunday

It's hard for me to blog about the Bible right now.  I'm a little distracted by a commercial for a new show: "Vanilla Ice Goes Amish."  I am not making this up.  I very much wish I were.  It reminds me though, that Jen Hatmaker is going to have a show on HGTV and that is good news.  If you don't follow Jen Hatmaker on Twitter you are missing out in a big way.  She is a very, very funny Christian (my favorite kind!).

May I also recommend following BibleGateway.com on Twitter?  But only if you want your Sunday Twitter feed to be flooded with rocking Bible verses.  I look forward to it every Sunday.

This Sunday I had something else to look forward to: it was Bible Sunday at our church!  The 1st, 3rd, and 7th graders received a Bible and they were all so precious standing up there receiving God's Word.  Our pastor* reminded us that our kids will treat their Bible the same way their parents do.  If we use ours only when we need to set our camera on something for a family portrait (what?! We've all done it!) then of course our sons and daughters will also only view it as a prop.  Likewise, if they see us with our face in the Bible every day, they are sure to follow suit.  And suddenly, I realize I should not wait until my girls are asleep to crack mine open...

Here is my first grader with her new Bible.

I hope your Sunday was just as exciting!

*October is Pastor Appreciation Month, by the way! :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hail Mary

Moms, could you just freak out for Mary?  She's only a child herself.  Fifteenish?  I still hope to be cradling my girls on my lap when they're fifteen (did you just mutter "delusional" under your breath?!) and here she's giving birth to Jesus blessed Christ. 

When my oldest was about thirty seconds old I asked the nurse, "Isn't she the most perfect baby you've ever seen?"  "Isn't she the smartest, healthiest, prettiest little thing you've ever seen in this hospital?"  She politely lied (and also may have muttered delusional under her breath come to think of it....), but my point is we have such giant wishes for our newborns- can you imagine looking into their squished, blotchy, minute-old face and believing it to be the Christ-child? 

As if dealing with lactation and wild hormones isn't enough, tiny Jesus is almost immediately a wanted man (er, baby).  Now Mary and Joseph have to keep this little guy alive so you know, he can do that save humanity thing.  And then well-meaning Simeon comes along spouting off things like, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)  Well, if that's not just an encouraging word to a first-time mom I don't know what is!

Mary.  Brave, dear, Mary.  I think we can all agree, she deserves a "hail."  And not just during Monday Night Football.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Turning Over A New (Testament) Leaf

October, you have never been lovelier.  Yes, the weather is perfection, pumpkin pie is in season, the leaves are vibrant and gorgeous, but it's more than that...

I'M FINALLY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT!!! 

Bring on the Jesus!  Let's hear it for the Christian church!  Yay heaven!  No offense, Old Testament.  Truly, you are full of wonder and I have a whole new respect for you.  But let me be totally honest here.  You lack some Jesus.  You know it and I know it.  The Old Testament taught me and informed me, but the New Testament warms me.  The New Testament encourages me; it gets me.  Jesus gets me. 

Life is good in October.  Life is awesome in Jesus!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Famous Last Words (2 Samuel 22-23, Psalm 57)

Here are some famous last words:

Humphrey Bogart: "I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis."
M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan: "I can't sleep."
Joseph Henry Green, upon checking his own pulse: "It's stopped."
Marie Antoinette after she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner as she went to the guillotine.: "Pardon me, sir.  I did not do it on purpose."
John Lennon: "I'm shot."
Elvis Presley: "I hope I haven't bored you."

People sure do get ironic before they die.  But leave it to David to be calm, cool, and poetic as ever in his last minutes:
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
    his word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel spoke,
    the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
    when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
    on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
    that brings grass from the earth.’
“If my house were not right with God,
    surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
    arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
    and grant me my every desire.
But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
    which are not gathered with the hand.
Whoever touches thorns
    uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
    they are burned up where they lie.”
 
I certainly won't be able to top that when my time comes.  Just in case, I think I'll start jotting some thoughts down now.  Otherwise I'll undoubtedly wind up notorious for saying something less-than-brilliant like, "I'm hungry." or, "I should have this mole removed."  I'm so happy David had his poetical ability at the end- otherwise 2 Samuel 23 could have gone a totally different direction.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Justice (Psalm 5, Psalm 38, Psalm 41-42)

I had the best meeting tonight!  My church is putting together a Justice Ministry team and we are pumped!  A while back a gentleman from the International Justice Ministry (IJM) came to speak to our church and left us with no choice but to take action.  He told horrific stories about human trafficking and the like; things we know are happening other places.  Far away places.  Or so I thought.

Now I know Toledo, OH ranks fourth in our nation for sex trafficking.  That's a mere two and a half hour drive from me.  Trafficking is a huge problem in Muskegon, minutes from one of my favorite vacation spots.  This happens.  This happens in the state you live in.  It's too horrible to go on about, but I love that churches, lawmakers, individuals, are taking action.  It's overwhelming.  We discussed at our meeting that the research for what we want to accomplish will take a minimum of six months.  Sadly, there are too many directions for us to go.  Local is so important, but what about the poorest of the poor?  They aren't in America.  We are desperate to stop sex trafficking.  And debt bondage.  And forced labor.  And organ harvesting.  There are so many ways to be a victim.

I didn't really mean for this post to be depressing, but I guess it's reading that way, isn't it?  The good news is we are becoming aware and taking action!  IJM Presiden and CEO says: "God has ignited a movement of transformation in his church- a movement of passion and action on behalf of millions who are victims of injustice in our world.  Believers are discovering clear, Christ-centered pathways to concretely 'seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.'" (Is. 1:17)