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.