Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Religion

"Religion is our negotiation with God to try to get his help in exchange for our good behavior. WE promise to do what we're told, and we expect God to reward us. This is a straightforward business arrangement, and we fully expect it to work. Meanwhile, we talk about being God's child as if we're family. But in our performance-for-reward arrangement, things don't operate on grace. Under the rules of religion, God is kept at arm's length and expected to be involved only to the degree that he gives us what we think we deserve.

The contrast between relationship and religion is obvious: beloved son or begrudging slave? We all would prefer the former, and we resent that the church has given us religion that leads to the latter. But even if you have left the church, it's unlikely that you left this chapter of the story. Humans are religious by nature, and our natural attraction to religion causes us to manufacture a god that operates according to our sense of right and wrong. Our god is glad to negotiate with us and on our terms."

Michael Spencer, Mere Churchianity

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Confession of an Elder Brother

Have you read Tim Keller's The Prodigal God? It is simply a must-read book, especially if you struggle with grace as I do. I haven't read The Prodigal God, but if I recall correctly Tim Keller writes that this parable, often called "The Prodigal Son" is not just about the wayward son, but also about the elder brother, and even God himself.

One quote that has stuck with me is this: There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord,. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good."

I identify with the "being very good." I strive to be very good. I want to be liked. I want to do the right things. I have spent most of my life doing the right things.

And yet, it bothers me like crazy when someone that has made wrong, bad choices, is looked upon more favorably than I am. I am such an elder brother! I'm mad and upset, but most of all hurt. How can I do everything "right" and yet it doesn't matter?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

"It came without ribbon! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled three hours 'till his puzzler was sore, then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Friday, December 24, 2010

Please Pray

Another post asking you to join me in prayer for this sweet baby. Today could very well be a most difficult day for the Parkins Family. Please, pray for baby Samuel! Pray for this family no matter what happens. I am linking you to the LOTH blog and post on Talking To Father. It is heart breaking and joyful at the same time.

It is Christmas Eve. A day of merriment, anticipation, love, peace.... and joy.

Joy.

A few moments ago I posted this quote by Ray Ortlund Jr. "Isn't it interesting how in Christmas cards and on public displays we often see the words, 'Peace on earth, good will toward men'? But how seldom we see the prior words, 'Glory to God in the highest!' But there is no peace, there is no good will, unless there is glory to God in the highest first. We forget to put God's glory first. Fortunately, he does not. God will be glorified." -- Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr

Last night I also read a blog post from the Desiring God blog, titled "An Open Letter to Clarence the Angel" by Michael Johnson says this:

"Does following Jesus mean one will have a wonderful life? Instead, Jesus promises a joyfullife, even amidst significant suffering. In theological language, to expect a wonderful life now is to have an over-realized eschatology. We’re living between two worlds, the now and the not yet.

In other words, Clarence, the reason this isn’t a wonderful life (in the Capra-esque way)—even for the redeemed—is for this simple reason: Life this side of glory is not the way it’s supposed to be—even for George Bailey."

It is so easy to confuse joy with happiness, and yet, in this story of baby Samuel, all the accounts resonate with joy, hope and a longing to see God glorified in everything. He is faithful but my heart still breaks for the Parkins family. Please continue holding them up in prayer.

Living in God's Mercy

Living in God's Mercy - Dec. 24

"We cannot approach the manger of the Christ child in the same way we approach the cradle of another child. Rather, when we go to this manger, something happens, and we cannot leave it again unless we have been judged or redeemed. Here we must either collapse or know the mercy of God directed toward us.

What does that mean? Isn't all of this just a way of speaking? Isn't it just pastoral exaggeration of a pretty and pious legend? What does it mean that such things are said about the Christ child? Those who want to take it as a way of speaking will do so and continue to celebrate Advent and Christmas as before, with pagan indifference. For us it is not just a way of speaking. For that's just it: it is God himself, the Lord and Creator of all things, who is so small here, who is hidden here in the corner, who enters into the plainness of the world, who meets us in the helplessness and defenselessness of a child, and wants to be with us. And he does this not out of playfulness or sport, because we find that so touching, but in order to show us where he is and who he is, and in order from this place to judge and devalue and dethrone all human ambition.

The throne of God in the world is not on human thrones, but in human depths, in the manger. Standing around his throne there are no flattering vassals but dark, unknown questionable figures who cannot get their fill of this miracle and want to live entirely by the mercy of God. "

D. Bonhoeffer I Want to Live These Days With You

Glory to God In the Highest

‎"Isn't it interesting how in Christmas cards and on public displays we often see the words, 'Peace on earth, good will toward men'? But how seldom we see the prior words, 'Glory to God in the highest!' But there is no peace, there is no good will, unless there is glory to God in the highest first. We forget to put God's glory first. Fortunately, he does not. God will be glorified." -- Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.

Juxtaposition

I'm sitting here and it is after midnight. I just spent the last few hours happily buying last minute gifts for family and friends. I want to sit down and wrap them, but I'm a computer addict so I have to log into the internet to see what I missed. Oh, who am I kidding? I missed nothing; I have an iPhone! But I love my Macbook and have to tend to it.

Before I go to my usual "haunts" I see a tweet from a guy I've never met but I follow and he follows me. It is a retweet and a plea to pray for baby Samuel. So I go to the LOTH blog which has been one of my familiar, always-checking blogs of late.

And I cry.

Please pray for baby Samuel and the Parkins family. Go to the website and read about baby Samuel. Such a touching, sad and amazing blog post.

"Whether God gives, or God takes away, we will still praise the name of the Lord. We will always praise God for these incredible two weeks where we have seen God’s glory shine through the life of a little boy who has been used to soften and change hearts."

I'm inspired and in awe of the faith of this family. I'm in awe of God, yet filled with questions. Please pray for Samuel and his family.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Mysterious, Invisible Authority

The Mysterious, Invisible Authority

"The authority of this poor child will grow." (Isa. 9:7) It will encompass all the earth, and knowingly or unknowingly, all human generations until the end of the ages will have to serve it. It will be an authority over the hearts of people, but thrones and great kingdoms will also grow strong or fall apart with this power. the mysterious, invisible authority of the divine child over human hearts is more solidly grounded then the visible and resplendent power of earthly rulers. Ultimately all authority on earth must serve only the authority of Jesus Christ over humankind.

With the birth of Jesus, the great kingdom of peace has begun. Is it not a miracle that where Jesus has really become Lord over people, peace reigns? That there is one Christendom on the whole earth, in which there is peace in the midst of the world? Only where Jesus is not allowed to reign - where human stubbornness, defiance, hate, and avarice are allowed to live on unbroken - can there be no peace. Jesus does not want to set up his kingdom of peace by force, but where people willingly submit themselves to him and let him rule over them, he will give them his wonderful peace."

D. Bonhoeffer, I Want To Live These Days With You

Nelson's Biblical Cycopedic Index


I've always enjoyed Bible aids and helps. When I was in high school I'd save my money to buy concordances and other things to aid in my Bible study, so when I saw this book, Nelson's Biblical Cyclopedic Index, I thought I'd enjoy it.

I did enjoy this book. It is about 500 pages and contains a lot of information, and I'm happy to have it on my shelf. Oftentimes I'll use online tools and I like the ease of going to my favorite spots online, but I do think I'll still use this book.

It is easy to use, informative and I'm happy to have it on my bookshelf, but I do wonder how many others will use Bible software instead of this reference book. Nevertheless, this is a great tool at a good price. If you are serious about studying your Bible, you will enjoy having this as a resource tool.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, December 20, 2010

Please Keep Praying

I put this on my Facebook page tonight, posted a link to the LOTH Blog where I read every day about Samuel Parkins. Facebook is such a strange thing; I don't know why more folks don't comment or repost things: here's a little baby in need of prayers! Cute and tiny; beautiful. How can you not want to do everything to help him? And what he needs is prayer. Such a simple thing and yet so powerful.

So I'm praying. And asking others to pray too. I expect my church to pray. We were sent an email asking to pray for baby Samuel. But tonight another friend posted that the LOTH blog I linked made her think of her own baby growing inside her. A baby that they've tried for years. A baby that came after numerous miscarriages.

She understood and I think she's praying more fervently than I am. For me, there is a shared experience of hospitals and a child that is suffering, even though I wasn't a parent but a child. For Sara, she feels it as an expectant mother, whose son's future is still completely unknown to her.

It is easier for me to quote others about God than to speak about him from my own heart and experience. As I was re-reading my account of movies and my brother, I realized: where's God in this narrative? He was there. I can tell you stories of comfort and beauty; of community and support. Of love and comfort. And yet.... my account is one of disconnectedness.

But I saw God there. Even there, in the midst of pain, confusion and loneliness. It is just hard to talk about, which is probably one of the reasons I so enjoy reading the account of the Parkins' family. Because their faith and hope is so beautifully articulated. Part of me wishes that my family had the strong faith the Parkins family does.

Please pray for baby Samuel. He had surgery today but still has much to face. I love his story. I love this baby. Here's the LOTH Blog where you can learn more.

God Became A Child

God Became a Child

"Mighty God" (Isa. 9:6) is the name of this child. The child in the manger is none other than God himself. Nothing greater can be said: God became a child. In the Jesus child of Mary lives the almighty God. Wait a minute! Don't speak; stop thinking! Stand still before this statement! God became a child! Here he is, poor like us, miserable and helpless like us, a person of flesh and blood like us, our brother. And yet he is God; he is might. Where is the divinity, where is the might of the child? In the divine love in which he became like us. His poverty in the manger is his might. In the might of love he overcame the chasm between God and humankind, he overcomes sin and death, he forgives sin and awakens from the dead. Kneel down before this miserable manger, before this child of poor people, and repeat in faith the stammering words of the prophet: "Mighty God!" And he will be your God and your might."

D. Bonhoeffer, I Want to Spend These Days With You

I Forgot

December 1st. This perhaps was one of the first years I'd so completely forgotten that my 6 year old brother died on this day, many years ago. I almost can't help but remember his birthday and the day he died; especially the day he died. But this year, December 1st meant Christmas and decorations and Gabriel the Elf and the beginning of chocolate Advent calendars from Trader Joe's. It's been only now that I realized I'd forgotten.

And yet, I guess one never really forgets and all it takes is some silly reference or memory and it feels and seems and even smells and tastes just like it did so long ago. I've posted about baby Samuel and praying for him on this blog, and I'm reminded of how I hate sickness and kids with illness. And of course, that would bother anyone.

Ironically, it is movies that hold such a strong emotional tie for me. I recall standing in line to see Star Wars. And of course, all the sequels. In fact, I think that was my dad's favorite pastime with us, our family outing: going to the movies. Is it ironic or predictable that whenever I have a "date night" with my husband we rarely go to a movie? Movies, to me, are in a strange category: you go you sit in the same room as another, right next to them. There's the appearance of spending time with one another but it was rarely fulfilling. You go, you sit, you leave.

I'm always left wanting more.

There are two movies that are forever branded in my mind. They are forever blurred with different emotions, experiences that really don't belong to the movie but have been transferred there. They say movies and television are a way of escaping reality. That even when the economy is down, things like amusement parks or small luxuries makes you "forget" the bad. A small indulgence to make one feel better.

The Man From Snowy River is one of the movies on my "Branded forever in my mind" list and not because it was such a great, meaningful movie. I think we saw it when my brother was very sick; not sure if he was with us or in the hospital, but I remember needing to escape; to numb the reality that couldn't be numbed. I remember sitting there in silence, all of us, a row of silent, hurting people pretending it was all okay. And then later talking about the beautiful scenery and shots. Just feeling numb and knowing we'd be going back to reality: the reality that my brother was still sick and dying and there was nothing we could do.

The following year, we saw A Christmas Story. Again, at Christmas time. I think this was just weeks after my brother died. Such an awkward attempt at being a family and being together like it was all okay and it would be okay. It is such a great movie and always makes me laugh, but there's a sadness there too. I'll never be able to watch A Christmas Story without thinking of my brother; he looked so much like Ralphie, especially when he took off his glasses during the fight scene. My mom exclaimed that night he looked just like my brother. Just like him.

So when I watched A Christmas Story last night with my friend Ellyn and my kids with their pillow pets, blankets and popcorn, talking throughout much of it, I couldn't help but think of the awkwardness, silence, sadness and forced conversation so long ago as we struggled to connect together after such a tragedy. What to say? We're all grieving. So we say nothing.

Contrast that to my experience last night! With popcorn on the floor, kids talking and a story so familiar that it doesn't matter if you hear the words of the movie; you know it all by heart anyways. Instead of silence, and solemnity, there is laughter We're not in a dark movie theatre but I like it better here in the light.

And I am grateful. Thankful that I have 3 adorable kids who talk through movies and drive me crazy. Grateful that they are healthy! Grateful there is no silence and we can talk and converse, ask questions and speak freely.

Believe it or not, I still laugh at A Christmas Story; how could I not? But at this time, Christmas, when we think of family and togetherness, I realize a bit of the disconnectedness in my life and wish it was different, yet still thankful. I wish things were different, but I also know there is much to be thankful for. And I'm thankful this Christmas and reminded of how much my family means to me and how I want to stay connected with them; all of them. David and the kids. No matter what.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Great Turning Point of All Things

The Great Turning Point of All Things - December 18

"The topic here is the birth of a child - not the revolutionary deed of a strong man, not the bold discovery of a wise person, not the godly work of a saint. It really goes beyond all comprehension: the birth of a child is supposed to lead to the great turning point of all things and to bring the salvation and redemption of all humanity. What kings and leaders of nations, philosophers, and artists, founders of religions and teachers of morals have tried in vain to do - that now happens through a newborn child. Putting to shame the most powerful human efforts and accomplishments, a child is placed here at the midpoint of world history- a child born of human beings, a son given by God (Isa 9:6). That is the mystery of redemption of the world; everything past and everything future is encompassed here. The infinite mercy of the almighty God comes to us, descends to us in the form of a child, his Son. That his child is born for us this son is given to us, that this human child and Son of God belongs to me, that I know him, have him, love him, that I am his and he is mine - on this alone my life now depends. A child has our life in his hands....

A shaking of heads, perhaps even an evil laugh, must go through our old, smart, experienced, self-assured world, when it hears the call of salvation of believing Christians: "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us."

-D. Bonhoeffer, I Want to Live These Days With You, page 369

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Love Came Down

Love Came Down from Brian Johnson on Vimeo.



I love this; we sang it tonight at church and though I've heard it now for about a year, it was so meaningful singing it in church with others instead of just on my iPod. Not sure what the "real" version is but I love this one by Brian Johnson, and not just because I have a pastor friend that is on staff at Bethel.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just Once

Christmas Cards. I've always been an ardent letter-writer and have used any excuse in the past to correspond with others, and even with the shift towards email, evite, facebook, and all that, I still enjoy sending Christmas Cards through the mail. At Christmas, I have the opportunity to send cards to folks that I care about but don't spend time with, or even talk to, yet still want them somewhat in my life.

There's one family that sends me a Christmas card every year, telling me a bit about their family and how things are with them. The odd part? I've only met them once, under quite stressful and sad circumstances.

Several years ago, when we had only one child, David was into windsurfing and met a guy. He was a single guy whose family all lived several towns away, so we hung out with him, invited him to dinners, and of course, David enjoyed windsurfing and other sports with him. He was a quiet guy but when you got to know him, you realized he was funny and extremely smart. I did not know him all that well, just through David, but I liked him. We knew him maybe a year and one day got a phone call from one of his friends.

Turned out, unbeknownst to us, he suffered from depression. One night it was particularly bad and he was with his family who called the hospital who advised him that, since there was no psychiatrist on call at the hospital in the evening, that the best course of action would be have him come to the hospital in the morning.

Unfortunately, he killed himself that night. I can't even imagine how hard it was for his parents; the "what-ifs" and "should-haves" and the "if I could do it all over again." I can't fathom their grief, and our own as we realized our helplessness not just to help him, but to even know that he was so depressed.

I don't understand much about depression. People have tried to explain it to me, and sometimes I wonder if I get depressed too but it always seems so different from the hopelessness that others feel, so perhaps I still don't understand. I've been told that it's chemical and that a person can't "make" themselves better. I am still clueless about depression, the best way to help a person and suicide, despite knowing several friends growing up that have attempted it.

In a way, I find it so odd that this family and I cling to such a thin thread of friendship; I almost wonder if it is needed, to keep their son's memory a part of their life...... mutual friends, others that mourn him, a way of saying We Have Not Forgotten. Sometimes I almost wish I could forget! I wonder if it is painful to address that Christmas Card to us; or if it is a relief. I wonder if we'll ever see this older couple again, as we read about their newest grandchild and where their other kids live.

I wonder if they have found peace. I wonder if they've forgiven themselves, or if they ever blamed themselves. I know I would've. I wonder how they got through this; if it was their faith or their friends. I wonder a lot, and I don't think Ill ever get any answers. I'd be too afraid to ask. It is best to just stick to the safe subjects.

But I've not forgotten and I still don't understand, and I still have a love for this family and I know that every year, they will send me a Christmas Card and I them, and when it ends, I'll miss that.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Walking to School

I enjoy walking my youngest to school every day. Today we were running late, so I was urging Katie to run and hurry up. I must've said it with a lot of stress evident in my voice, because Katie looks at me, and says, "Don't worry, Mom! All you have to do is pray about it and it will be okay." And to that, I still insisted, no, you still have to run! We'll be late if we don't run. And again, she insisted that if we prayed it would all work out okay. Then she said, "I pray a lot at school."

Ah, the faith of a child and the cynicism of my own hardened heart!

We weren't late for school, and we did not run the whole way. I'm sure Katie is attributing it to prayer. I almost wonder why I don't.

Thoughts on Voices of the Faithful



Voices of the Faithful is a compilation of stories and accounts from missionaries all over the world, arranged throughout the year by subjects. For instance, January is God's Character, February is God's Word, and March is Prayer. I liked having the cohesiveness of a theme for the entire month. It is filled with inspirational accounts as well as uplifting stories. Some are more impactful than others, but overall it is a good book. Not sure if it is the devotional I'd choose to read every day, but it is a solid devotional that is easy to read and entertaining enough to be compelling to read daily.

I've also had the pleasure of reading Voices of the Faithful Book 2, which is similar to this book but with different stories. I thought it was also interesting and had some great stories and insights in it as well.

Overall, both Voices of the Faithful and Voices of the Faithful Book 2 would be a great Christmas gift, especially to someone who enjoys the Beth Moore connection and doesn't have a lot of time for a more in-depth devotional. Although you can start anytime, I think that most folks prefer to start a devotional in January.. I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thoughts on The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible


I recently received The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible: Inspirational Applications for Living Your Faith from the Booksneeze program at Thomas Nelson. The cover is tastefully done in muted tones and a scenic sepia photo.

The translation is the NKJV, an updated version of the King James but much more readable while still retaining much of the beauty. Interspersed throughout the book are Life Lessons in the margin. A sample one is:

Situation: Some Galatian believers were in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2). They already knew that God freely gave the Holy Spirit.

Observation : Paul used Abraham's example (Genesis 15) to prove that the Old Testament believers were also saved by faith.

Inspriration: In baptism we identify with Christ. We go from tire kicker to car buyer. We step out of the shadows, point in His direction, and announce, "I'm with him."

I used to do this at the drive-in movie theatre.

Remember drive -in movies? (Kids, ask a grownup.) The one in Andrews, Texas, had a Friday night special - a carload for the price of the driver. Whether the car carried one passenger or a dozen, the price as the same. We often opted for the dozen route. The law would not allow us to do today what we did then. Shoulders squished. Little guy on the big guy's lap. The ride was miserable but the price was right. When the person at the ticket window looked in, we pointed to the driver and said, "We're with him."

God doesn't tell you to climb into Christ's car. He tells you to coimb into Christ! "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1). He is your vehicle! Baptism celebrates your decision to take a seat. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27, emphasis mine.) We are not saved by the act, but the act demonstrates the way we are saved. We are given credit for a perfect life we did not lead- indeed, a life we could never lead. (From Next Door Saviour by Max Lucado)

Application: Paul warned: Don't be tricked. Don't let anyone think that you must win God's approval. Rejoice that if you are God's child His love toward you is endless.

Exploration: Law's inferiority -Romans 3:19, 20; 4:13-25; 8:3; Galatians 5:3-6; Hebrews 3:1-6; 8:7-13.

Also interspersed through the book are areas where he expounds on a word or idea, such as power, love of Fruit of the Spirit and some additional verses to study and questions to answer.

I think this Bible would be good for a person who loved reading the inspirational writings of Max Lucado, or for a person who is perhaps a beginning reader of the Bible. Personally, what I look for in a "study" Bible are more study aides, references, concordance, and more in-depth introductions to the Books. Yet, there is much good in this Bible: Key Bible verses to read (and memorize?) 30 Studies for a new believer, which are much like daily devotions, etc. It seems to be a sturdy hardbound copy that states on the cover it is "guaranteed for life" and it is very appealing visually. As it is stated in the Bible's description online, this Bible is well suited as a companion to Max Lucado's newest book, Outlive Your Life

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, December 13, 2010

Please Continue Praying..... and Tell the World

There is a huge soft spot in my heart for kids with sickness. On one hand, I want to ignore it and run far way from it, because it hurts and I know only too well what it is to be around sick children. It actually brings up a bevy of emotions, sights, smells and sounds that I really don't like to recall. And then, almost simultaneously, I want to do something to help and hate feeling helpless. Add to that in some ways, is it even rational to care so much for a family and a little baby I don't know and will probably never meet?

But I do. I can't help but feel tied to this little baby and his family. So today I'm once again asking you to pray for Samuel Parkins. I read the blog post and he's having a difficult time. Please, go to the Life On the Hill blog site and read the updates for baby Samuel. It is sad and uplifting and beautiful.... and so very real. It brings me to tears and yet reminds me of the goodness of God because the posts somehow always point to God's glory. I'm at a loss because I really don't think I could respond with such faith and grace in that situation. And I gravitate to this blog and to praying for this beautiful baby boy.

On the blog post yesterday, Mr. Parkins wrote, "Tell the world to pray. Tell them God hears. Tell the world that God is good and Jesus reigns, tell them that Samuel is God’s kid. Tell them we won’t be silent. Please church, we must wake up. Death has lost its sting, hell has lost its victory. Our God is alive, and He’s about doing the impossible. In fact, He’s doing it now. Tell the world."

Yes; Tell the World. And please pray for baby Samuel and family. Please.

A Love For Theology

A Love for Theology - Dec. 14

"No priest, no theologian stood at the manger of Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders: that God became human. Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of the divine child in the stable. Without the holy night, there is no theology. "God revealed in flesh," the God-human Jesus Christ - that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve. How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God's mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ.... If Christmas time cannot ignite within us again something like a love forholy theology, so that we - captured and compelled by the wonder of the manger of the Son of God - must reverently reflect on the mysteries of God, then it must be that the glow of the divine mysteries has also been extinguished in our heart and has died out."

D. Bonhoeffer, I Want to Live These Days With You, page 365

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Respect for the Mystery

I mentioned a few posts ago that I had ordered Bonhoeffer's God Is In the Manger Unfortunately, even though the company I ordered it from said "in stock" and "ships immediately" when my order arrived, it stated the book was back ordered! I was so looking forward to it! Alas, one of the other books I ordered was a compilation book of daily devotions pulled from several of Bonhoeffer's works titled I Want to Live These Days With You: A Year of Daily Devotions and I've been really enjoying the bits I've been reading day by day. I highly recommend this book of daily devotions. Some will make you think more deeply, some will encourage or inspire you, some will comfort you and others will fill you with awe even though the selections are short; a mere paragraph or two a day! I'm quite impressed by much of the selections for December and thought I'd post some of my favorites. Since I've already posted the one for today (With God there is Joy) Here is one from December 7th.

Respect for the Mystery

"The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don't know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do. We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that's just what we cannot do with the mystery... Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery in our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them."

D. Bonhoeffer, I Want to Live These Days With You, page 358

Friday, December 10, 2010

Daydreams

From the LOTH blog: "Also, I imagine the family can expect hefty hospital bills in the near future. If you feel led to help meet this need then Dan has asked that you consider buying his book direct from the publisher. You see, Dan himself survived 3 liver transplants and that is quite a testimony itself."

Pleas consider buying Dan Parkins' book, Daydreams through this link. It is an excellent way to be a blessing to this family, whose son Samuel is in the hospital and needs our prayers, as well as being blessed or blessing others through Dan Parkins' book.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Please Pray for Baby Samuel


I became aware of this little baby last night via an email and on Facebook. Please pray for him! The family's story and faith is quite touching, and truly, God can do miracles! Please join me praying for Baby Samuel. To follow his journey, please check out the blog post HERE.

With God There Is Joy


"Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads" (Isa. 35:10). Since ancient times in the Christian church, acedia - sadness of the heart, resignation - has been considered a mortal sin. "Serve the Lord with gladness!" (Ps. 100:2 RSV), urges the Scripture. For this, our life has been given to us, and for this, it has been sustained for us to this present hour. The joy that no one can take from us belongs not only to those who have been called home, but also to us who are still living. In this joy we are one with them, but never in sadness. How are we supposed to be able to help those who are without joy and courage, if we ourselves are not borne by courage and joy? What is meant here is not something made or forced, but something given and free. With God there is joy, and from him it comes down and seizes spirit, soul, and body. And where this joy has seized a person, it reaches out around itself, it pulls others along, it bursts through closed doors. There is a kind of joy that knows nothing at all of the pain, distress, and anxiety of the heart. But it cannot last; it can only numb for a time. The joy of God has gone through the poverty of the manger and the distress of the cross; therefore it is invincible and irrefutable.

D. Bonhoeffer, page 362 I Want to Live These Days With You

(Bold emphasis my own)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Frighteningly Wonderful

I now own a new bike. I've not had a new bike in 16 years. I think we paid 300 dollars for my Specialized Mountain Bike when we lived in Seattle, and that bike got a lot of use there, since I did not have a car. I even had panniers so I could do carry home groceries on my bike. (Obviously I had no kids then!) We lived on Queen Anne Hill, not too far up, luckily, and later on another hill near Green Lake. I loved my bike.

This summer, after watching David and a friend do a half ironman, I decided to do a sprint triathlon. My friend, who was watching her husband also do the half IM, also decided to do one, so we are training together. She's better than I am, but very encouraging and sweet, and most of all, she keeps me from giving up, and I hope I am encouraging to her as well. I joined a gym and we've been swimming. I really can't run but we've walked and tried to run. I'm sure I'm holding her back in that area...... she can run! The next thing was bike. So last week I took a spin class that made me re-think getting a new bike but just 2 days after that class..... guess what I own?

A new road bike.

And not just any new bike; one that is way better than someone like me deserves. Carbon fiber. Mavic wheels. Clip in pedals..... ah, clip in pedals. I'm scared of them! I'm scared of tiny thin wheels. I felt nearly invincible on my mountain bike and on this bike, I'm so frightened!

So for now, it sits in the house, on a trainer. I spend about an hour a day on it, trying to get used to it. There's a part of me that wants to leave it safe in the house..... in perfect condition, not a speck of dirt on its pure white frame, no nicks, dings or scratches, and yet I know that would be a waste. It was designed to go outside and be used, not sit in perfect condition inside with no risks.

Sometimes I think it really would be easier to take no risks even in life. I don't want to get dinged up, scratched or bruised. I don't like doing things wrong, saying the wrong things, or just being open...it is a risk. And yet, isnt' that how God designed us? To be in community. It might be more risky, it might even hurt and get some scratches and bruises, but isn't it worth it?

Someday I'll have to take my bike on the road. I hope I enjoy it. It might even take some time to enjoy it, get comfortable and confident and familiar on it, but supposedly its also thrilling. I hope so.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Banquet or Concert Hall?

Bifrost Arts from josh franer on Vimeo.



"I think it is important that we urge our congregants not to think of the worship service as a concert hall, as a time that we come to receive something, but to think of our worship services as a banquet hall, where we come to participate in something together."

Music is important. Several weeks ago, I came across a cute, humorous video that was a satire on Church Planting that rang a bit too close for comfort for some of my church planting friends! In it, he especially makes the point of how important a worship leader is.... because music is important!

I like to think that music isn't that important; indeed, it is not my favorite part of church, nor would I even choose a church based on worship style, but it does make a difference. Plus, it is easy for me to say that because the church I attend provides wonderful, beautiful music that is "authentic" and draws people in to worship. (Unfortunately the music pastor is also a church planter in another city, so he's our interim worship pastor.... when he leaves, we'll miss him, as he's not only provided great new songs and arrangements, but also is a integral part of our community and we all love him and his family) Anyways, all this to say is: my worship pastor is good and so is the worship team. I'm sure if I had a bad worship team or pastor I'd realize more fully how important it is!

Too often, I go into my church not as a participant, but as an observer. I listen to the music, rarely do I sing (but that is changing!) I don't want to have a "concert hall" mindset; I want to feast on the banquet and participate in praising God instead, not just consuming beautiful music. LIkewise, I'd rather my worship team also view it that way.... not mere performance, but an entering into communion with God. It seems that when they are, I also want to be there too.

How important is music in the church? How important is it to you? What do you think of churches that hire professional musicians to come and provide a top-notch worship experience? Do you think only Christian musicians should play in church? Do you think a really good worship band is necessary to attract and keep people at a church? Do you think it will draw in outsiders who don't know Christ?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spinning in Circles

I shouldn't have gone tonight. I was supposed to go to a Spin exercise class with 2 friends but they both had to bow out at the last minute leaving me with a dilemma: To go or not to go?

I wanted to go. I had anticipated it all week... but I was scared to go by myself.

I've never felt comfortable at a gym. I'm not strong, I'm not thin and I'm so far from perfect it is scary. I always feel that everyone else is perfect. I also hate going in to an environment where I know I'm going to fail.

So.... not sure why I still went tonight.

I nearly left....I was so out of place and knew nothing. The stationary bike was configured for someone else and I did not even know how to change it, and even if I did.... I had no idea what "ideal" looked like. My heart was pounding even before the class began. Happily, a woman from my church was there too, and even warned me that Dan's class was difficult.

That's the other part. I wasn't sure if it would be easier or harder to attend a class that was lead by my pastor, but the time worked for me (I had looked into another spin class my friend Kristin attends). I realized I was scared to go to any class and I had to get over that fear so what better than attend this class?

I was wrong, and yet..... it was okay. I just went in knowing that I knew nothing. I knew I'd be horrible at it..... and I was. I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn't do anything Dan called out to do.... in fact, I was told that I should just do what I can at my own pace. (said after there was NO WAY I could stand up and sit down and stand up while cycling) So I did the best I could..... even though it was pitiful and I wanted to stop.

There's a part of me happy that I went tonight... alone. It was difficult just going through the doors. I did something that was uncomfortable and something I'm horrible at..... and I survived. I was dripping in sweat wanting to die, but I at least tried.

I'm supposed to get a bike this Christmas, but after today's spin class I joked to David to skip the bike and get me an iPad. It was tough, and I really don't think that a person like me will ever be fit enough to do a triathlon or even endure a spin class. Friends tell me that it will get better but seriously..... I don't believe them. I've never been sports oriented.... and I really do think that I should stick to the things I'm good at.

There's just one problem....I really do want to at least get fit... even if I'm really awful at it.

The Journey

The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot

"A Cold coming we had of it.
Just the worse time of year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp

The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fear and Trembling

I've been reading a book by RC Sproul titled The Holiness of God. It is quite a classic and some consider it a "must read" book up there with Mere Christianity and JI Packer's Knowing God.

It is very good, and has caused me a lot of thought. The holiness of God. I can't even fathom it. In The Holiness of God, in chapter Four, the Trauma of Holiness, Mr. Sproul recounts the story of how Jesus rebuked the storm and it obeyed, and the time when Jesus said to put down their nets and their nets were overwhelmed with fish. Peter recognizes that Jesus is God; so holy he wishes him to leave him, realizing His own sinfulness in contrast to the perfect holiness of Christ. Here is what Mr. Sproul writes about the story in Luke 5.

"At that moment [Luke 5:8] Peter realized that he was in the process of the Holy Incarnate. He was desperately uncomfortable. His initial response was one of worship. He fell to his knees before Christ. Instead of saying something like, "Lord, I adore you. I magnify you," he said, "Please go away. Please leave. I can't stand it."

The history of the life of Christ is a history of multitudes of people pushing through crowds just to get close to Him. It is the leper crying, "Have mercy on me." It is the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years reaching out to touch the hem of His garments. It is the thief on the cross straining to hear Jesus' dying words. It is people saying, "Come close to me. Look at me. Touch me."

Not so Peter. His anguish plea was different: He asked Jesus to depart, to give him space, to leave him alone.

Why? We need not speculate here. It is not necessary to read between the lines because the lines themselves state precisely why Peter wanted Jesus gone: "I am a sinful man!" Sinful people are not comfortable in the presence of the holy." (pages 56, 57)

The holiness of God. Think about it. I do believe I'd fall on my face. To think that the holiness of God is excruciating to us. (Isaiah in the presence of God)

I don't meditate on the Holiness of God much, but it has been refreshing and beautiful to think of Him being so full and worthy of awe. Awe-ful.

Sometimes I read more than one book, and now I especially am since we are in the season of Advent. I was reading (rather randomly) in a book titled Watch For the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. One of the chapters is The Coming of Jesus in Our Midst by Bonhoeffer. On page 205 he writes:

"It is very remarkable hat we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God, whereas the world fell into trembling when Jesus Christ walked over the earth. That is why we find it so strange when we see the marks of God in the world so often together with the marks of human suffering, with the marks of the cross on Golgotha. We have become so accustomed to idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love."

I have not a clue what it will be like in Christ's presence. Will I still feel unworthy and mindful of my sin? Or will I know that I stand before God and am seen without sin due to the imputation of Christ's righteousness? Will I feel the excruciating pain of knowing I was in the presence of God's holiness, or will I be at ease, in the arms of a welcoming father?

I can't even fathom the day.

Advent Quote


"The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.” D. Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

I've ordered this book and am looking forward to reading it this Advent season; it has come highly recommended from a few folks. I'll post more quotes as I read this book. For now, enjoy the first week of Advent!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

He Is Worthy

Last week I decided that I need to pursue some changes, and one of them was to pray out loud in prayer on Wednesday mornings. Not because I think praying silently is wrong; I wanted to pray aloud because the reason for my silence was wrong; it wasn't borne out of conviction or a quiet spirit, it was because of my own selfishness and discomfort in praying out loud. To put it bluntly: it is incredibly painful to listen to my inadequate attempts to voice my prayers out loud for everyone to hear.

Truly. I add nothing to the corporate experience; yet I feel that I must pray out loud simply because He is worthy of my prayers and praises, regardless of how bad I am at it or how uncomfortable it makes me feel.

As a carryover of my decision to change some things around, I also realized I needed to start singing out loud during church. A long time ago, I physically couldn't sing and got in the habit of not. I'll just stand there, reading the words, thinking of the words, and even questioning the words, but not singing them. But He is worthy of my praise. So today I tried to sing and realized the deeper reason why I don't sing; it wasn't because I disagreed with the songs' words; it was because I feel the words too deeply in my heart and when I sing them, it makes me want to cry. I don't like crying. I don't like displays of emotion, and the ironic thing is I'm probably considered very emotional! (yet I dislike that too) It's not just that I don't like to cry; it is that I don't like others to see me cry!

So far it has all been one week. One Wednesday of praying out loud and one Sunday of trying to sing. I'm not sure anything good has come from either experience but I'm not giving up yet; I do believe that He is worthy of my praise, no matter the discomfort it causes me. I should be wiling and eager to embrace this wonderful opportunity to gather together to sing and pray.

It still isn't easy.

Thankful

This weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving, and I am truly thankful. As we sat around the table on Thursday, we were asked to say what we were thankful for, and it struck me that most of what was stated was stuff. One young 8 year old (not mine) mentioned he was thankful for money.... that we were able to buy cool stuff and have food and toys and all that.

I thought I was pretty good, being thankful for family, but I realized a bit later that, though it sounded good, that perhaps I also was missing what was truly important?

It is so easy to be thankful for things and circumstances, yet miss the Giver of these special gifts and blessings.

I don't want to ever forget the Who behind all the gifts. I want to be thankful towards God, not just for His goodness and all He bestows on me, but thankful for who He is. Always.

May I learn to be content in Him.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thoughts on Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

I was surprised how petite Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie is, but when I started reading it, it won me over.

This slim volume about Christmas is perfectly suited for family Advent devotions. Every day has a daily devotion and Discussion Starter questions, as well as a place to record questions and comments. Occasionally there is a hymn or song, complete with words and music. This small book is completely focused on Jesus; His birth as well as His promise to come again. Saturated with Biblical truth and Scripture, this book encourages conversation. I can't wait to read this with my children this year; I know it will be well-received and a lot of fun to explore a bit more in depth what Christmas truly means and our response to that.

Here's what is written for December 21st:

"Most or us have a little list going this time of year - if not on paper, then in our heads. It's that list of what we're hoping someone might give us for Christmas. But isn't it interesting that at Christmas we get gifts on someone else's birthday? Jesus is the real birthday boy. Have you ever thought about what Jesus might want for his birthday this Christmas?

The Bible tells us hat after Jesus was born, "some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him." (Matthew 21:21)

An unusual star in the sky led these men to Jesus. Matthew wrote that "when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." (matthew 2:10, NASB, emphasis added). It's almost as if here aren't enough words to express how much joy they felt over this star that would lead them to Jesus.

When the wise men saw Jesus, they bowed down and worshiped him. And they gave him expensive gifts. Giving is part of worship. If we really admire and love the one we are worshiping, we are glad to give ourselves and whatever we have of value, to him. If Christ is the true object of our worship, then no one has to force us to worship him or give of ourselves to him. It is what we want to do.

Since it is Jesus' birthday that we celebrate at Christmas, perhaps you should consider what you could give to Jesus for his birthday present. Perhaps the gift you could give to Jesus this Christmas is to say to him from your heart, "I'm so happy you brought me to you! You are worthy of my worship, and I want you to be the King of my life. You are more precious to me than anything I own, and I gladly give you the honor you deserve." This is a gift he will enjoy."

-Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room, by Nancy Guthrie, page 60


I received this book free from Tyndale Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Value

"Until we get back into a quiet mood before Him, our faith is of no value, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is what rules our lives." Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Thoughts- On This Day In Christian History



On This Day In Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs, and Heroes by Robert Morgan, is a hard book to review; as it is more of a daily devotional style book, with each day reading one page or so, and there is little flow to it, as it skips around, drawing from special dates all throughout history. Some will love this style; others will wish for something a bit more in depth, but I like it. I think it exposes you to a lot and if you take a special interest in a time frame, person, or event, you can pursue focusing on that through another book.

Whenever I see books broken up in 365 daily readings, I always think "gift," especially at Christmas time or New Year's when everyone is making a conscious effort to read, reflect and learn more in the new year. This would make a great gift for a history person, or a Christian, or someone that wants to learn more about the history of this faith. It truly is fascinating, and there is so much to learn that this book is a great jumping off point. I already have learned so much I never knew. If you already know a lot about Church History, you might be frustrated with the organization of this book and wish to pursue a book that dives into one topic or event at once.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Sunday, November 21, 2010

U2- Yahweh

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don't make a fist
Take this mouth
So quick to criticise
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, Yahweh
Still I'm waiting for the dawn

Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
The sun is coming up on the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean
This love is like a drop in the ocean

Yahweh, Yahweh
Always pain before a child is born
Yahweh, tell me now
Why the dark before the dawn?

Take this city
A city should be shining on a hill
Take this city
If it be your will
What no man can own, no man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Too Much is Not Enough

I've always thought that my daughter was an extrovert: she's loud, funny, loves people and new things, and since the age of 2 has always made new friends instantly with anyone on the playground, inviting them to her birthday party that was about 9 months away, and firmly believing that she'd see this acquaintance again. She won't even know the person's name but refer to her as "best friend." Clearly, not my daughter. I think it perhaps takes me five years before I can safely call a person "best" or even "close" friend!

The other day a person referred to me (namelessly) as "a friend." that sent him a quote. I jokingly mentioned he must be an extrovert to consider me a friend! And he challenged back, that as an introvert, does that mean I don't consider him a friend?

Ah, it's so complicated! Yes and no. The banter went back and forth for a bit, and caused me much further thought. What makes a person my "friend?" What does it take? I don't say that word lightly, and yet.... what better description than "friend?" Yet my only interaction is at church and church functions, as well as a bit of emailing and blog, but nothing that I consider "in depth" or in a way that makes me feel connected. So what does it take to feel connection? A meal? Meeting outside the context of a corporate gathering? Time?

I dropped Katie off at a sleepover and she was so happy and welcomed by 2 little girls she knows quite well from church. But then the doorbelll rang and in came in 2 girls she did not know. I'm not sure what happened, but before I left I noticed she was hiding. I went over to see how she was doing, and encouraged her to play with her friends, who came over, laughing and coaxing her to play with them, assuring her the new girls she did not know yet were nice. As I left they all seemed to be having a great time, but it did make me ache for a moment, wondering what happened to me super confident little girl? Did I do something to make her feel bad about herself? Is she insecure at school? What is it that is making her so self-aware? Is she an extrovert, or an introvert?

I want her to be opposite of me. I want her to feel at ease and confident in new surroundings. I want her to have no insecurities but just have fun and enjoy life. I want her to be instant friends with folks, despite the shallowness that would bug me like crazy. I like that. I hope she always is bold, loving and happy.

And me? I'm still trying to decide if someone I've known for months can be termed "friend," and realize that my email/blog/Facebook interactions are oftentimes more in-depth than my Real Life ones.... and yet, not sure I'd term many of my online interactions as "friends." Yet, sadly, they are often more fulfilling than my Real Life interactions.

I'm not sure I'll every be satisfied....... "Too much is not enough."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts on Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality

I joined a new book blogging site, Blogging For Books, and this was my top choice to read and review. I remember a few months ago when this book was released and the attention it got. Words used to describe it were: "Provocative. Incredibly Accurate. Controversial. Edgy." I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, so I held off buying it. However, once I chose it on the website, I went and borrowed a copy to give me a head start on reading it!

I'm so glad I chose this book to review. It is one I want on my bookshelf.

Mere Churchianity will make you think. Michael Spencer is so accurate in his observations of the problems of the church. We often don't resemble Jesus, sometimes we are sorely lacking in much knowledge about our faith, and even if we know about our faith, are we living it out?

It is true; there are a lot of problems in the church! But I love the church regardless and can't help but think that Scripture says that Christ also loves the Church, so when Mr. Spencer comments about how leaving the church might be the best, healthiest thing a person can do (page 57), it makes me cringe. I know there is a current trend to leave Churches in order to fully live in authentic community, but I still maintain the belief that we can have all that Michael Spencer advocates in his book but inside the church! It is true that we're broken people; so why is it that we demand a perfect church?

I recall a quote I read by Charles Spurgeon about the church and how we should give ourselves to the church, even in its' faults and weaknesses. The entire quote is good, but in order to be brief I'll just quote this one paragraph: "As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers."

I was so challenged by Mere Churchianity, but I agree with a quote I heard of Bill Hybels that "the local church is the hope of the wold." There is so much thought-provoking, challenging and accurate assessments in this book, I completely recommend it, but I disagree with his view of the church.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Blogging For Books program through Waterbrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

First Things First

"Too often we confuse first things and second things. If I want my children to have beautiful imaginations (a second thing), I must first turn off the television, read them descriptive, fantastical books, and give them experiences that let their mind wander and dream (a first thing). I can't tell them to practice "imagination." I have to create an environment that first encourages is. Consider bestselling gooks. Authors don't set out to create a bestseller (a second thing), and in most cases if they did, they'd never get the result. Instead, they set out to write an honest account of their view of the world (a first thing) in hopes that others will appreciate it and benefit from it. If the readers tell their friends and more people read it, the book could become a bestseller. But you hardly ever achieve the second things without the first things. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his brilliant essay "First and Second things," "You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first."

Gabe Lyons' The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith.

This has been causing me some thought. I find myself often going and desiring the second thing without pursuing the first.

What about you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christians In the World

"Nothing illustrates what's possible better than an anonymous letter written to Diognetus, a Roman scholar who lived between the second and third centuries (likely during the great persecutions of Christians). It shows the tension - and the potential - of how thinking and living with a restoration focus can impact the world.

The Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.... Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike.... and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth.

They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land. They marry, like every one else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their own offspring. They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed.

They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men are persecuted..... They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance.

To put it simply: What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world."


From Gabe Lyons' book The Next Christians, page 185, 186, quoting Cyril Richardson's book Early Christian Fathers, pg. 175. Note: From the primary document "The So-Called Letter to Diognetus: The Mystery of the New People"

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving More

Once upon a time I had all my shopping done and wrapped well before Thanksgiving, but the past few years I've not been so proactive.

I've seen a few "Top 10" lists on other blogs and thought it was a great idea for mine, as I sort out what special things, and some good deals, that I like. Some of these gifts are things I've done in the past, or doing this year, and others are things I found that I like and am thinking about giving.



1. Last year my church encouraged us to give in a variety of ways, and my family and I chose to give a family in another part of the world a bunch of chickens, but you can choose other things, such as a goat, ducks, and even "accessories" like vaccinations for the animals or a chicken coop. I did it through World Concern last year. A Complete Chicken Package is only 75 and includes 20 chicks, food, vaccinations, and materials for a chicken coop. Twenty chickens alone cost only 30 dollars! Truly, there is an animal or a package for every budget. This is a great gift idea for the kids to be involved in. I know that my in-laws pretty much have everything, and they love it when we give them gifts that make a difference in the world.



2. As mentioned above, sometimes it is difficult to buy things for people who seem to have everything, but I've found that most people enjoy experiences. My middle child loves to golf with Grandpa, my youngest wants to go to see The Nutcracker at the local ballet company, and we're incorporating that as a gift for Grandma too. Concerts, theatre, even a picnic by the lake are all experiences that can be just as meaningful, if not more, than a gift in a box. (In Advent Conspiracy terms, this is called "Giving Presence.")



3. Every year the Desiring God store has a wonderful sale around this time, with three bargain set options for only 10 dollars for 4 books! John Piper's new book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is worth over 10 dollars alone, and this set also includes Spectacular Sins, The Gadarene and Finally Alive It is a great deal if you have friends that are readers in your life and enjoy John Piper. The website offers free shipping to orders over $30 and you can also choose to make a donation towards Piper's Desiring God ministries as well.

4. Portraits. My kids are growing so fast, many of my family enjoy family portraits, or portraits of my kids. Professionally done or candid, they are always appreciated. Find a nice frame and you have an instant gift that will be treasured.

5. Similar to portraits, one thing I did a few years ago was find cute little photo ornaments to fill with photos of my kids. My in-laws loved them and they are now a keepsake favorite that go up on the tree year after year. Photographed in black and white, they have a classic, timeless feel to them.

6. Music. Either iTunes or an actual CD or concert DVD, music makes a wonderful gift. Many think that a gift card isn't very thoughtful or creative; but I have found that I'm always inclined to keep the iTunes giftcards I purchase rather than give them to others. ... so if you get an iTunes gift card from me, know that you are truly loved because my first thought is to keep it and not give it to you! (So much music.... so little time) Same goes for gift certificates for booksellers like Amazon, Borders or Barnes and Noble. Better yet, support an independent bookseller!

7. One of my favorite Kid Gifts is simply the gift of silly art that brings me back to my own childhood. I'm artistically challenged, but I never had a problem creating elaborate scenes through the ease of a thumbprint. A copy of Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing book, a black fine-tipped pen, pad of paper and a stamp pad will provide hours of imaginative "art" that any kid can do and have a great time doing it! Ed Emberley's other drawing books are a hit too.

8. A Pillow Pet. Okay, this one is NOT creative or original but my kids absolutely love their Pillow Pets. Plus, they are very useful and quite soft. My kids actually enjoy going to bed more because of their Pillow Pets. You can find them for as low as 14.99 at Ross or other discount retailers, and I've seen them at Target and other places for about 19.99. Did I mention they are actually pretty cute too? Excellent gift.

9. Anything Apple. There. I said it. In my opinion, Apple, not diamonds, is a girl's best friend. I'll gladly take an iPad or a new Nano. (or, a new Macbook Pro, but now I'm really dreaming)



10. A very practical gift is a family pass or annual pass to a museum, amusement park, aquarium, or zoo. This gift will be appreciated all year!

11. I stumbled on this site called Azizi Life and I fell in love with this Nativity Set. Isn't it wonderful? From artisans in Rwanda and provides a way for them to make money at a fair price. I think 35 dollars is more than a fair price for this very unique set! It is sold out right now, and I can totally see why!

12. Not a gift, but a fun alternative to wrapping paper is a technique called furoshiki. I usually use this to wrap small gifts like books or small boxes, and the fabric I generally choose to use is dish towels! Why? Because they are a very usable, practical part of the gift that can be reused again and again, but you can use any fabric.

I'm sure I missed quite a few things and I'm always on the lookout for creative, fun, unique, or gifts that support causes, and I'd love to hear your suggestions and things you have found that you'd like to share.

Quotes of the Day

Let me know which one you like the most, or the least.

"Christ nowhere says, ye shall know the tree by its leaves or flowers, or ye shall know men by their talk . . .or by their speaking feelingly, or by making a very great show by the abundance of talk, or by many tears and affectionate expressions, or by the affections you feel in your heart toward them; by their fruits ye shall know them."
- Jonathan Edwards"



"A Christian can defeat himself in two ways: one is to forget the holiness of God and the fact that sin is sin. The Bible calls us to an ever deeper commitment in giving ourselves to Christ for him to produce his fruit through us.

The other is to allow himself to be worn out by Christians who turn Christianity into a romanticism. The realism of the Bible is that God does not excuse sin, but neither is he finished with us when he finds sin in us. And for this we should be thankful."

- Francis Schaeffer, No Little People



“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that is misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”

-Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, page 116.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Four Holy Gospels

Fujimura - 4 Holy Gospels from Crossway on Vimeo.



This is such an interesting video to me; beautiful and presents a lot of thought about art and culture and Christianity and what it means to engage in art as worship.

This book, The Four Holy Gospels, is being released at the end of January. It looks gorgeous and I so enjoy this video and what it has to say. Plus, Crossway is one of my favorite publishers and I love seeing something so creative come from them. Thank you Crossway and Makoto Fujimura for creating such wonderful art to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the King James Version.

I just may have to start saving my pennies (a lot of them!) if I want this book. Regardless if I'll ever own it, I do think it is beautiful and a great way to engage art and worship.

What do you think of art, and what makes an art "Christian" and with a Christian world view?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Truman's Christmas Greeting

One of the books I've received from Booksneeze was The American Patriot's Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb. On page 510 the authors write an entry about Truman's Christmas radio greeting to the nation. I loved it, so here is is:

" In 1949, President Harry Truman sent Christmas greetings to the nation by radio from his home in Independence, Missouri:

"Once more I have come to Independence to celebrate Christmas with my family. We are back among old friends and neighbors around our own fireside..... Since returning holme, I have been reading again in our family Bible some of the passages which foretold this night. It was that grand old seer Isaiah who prophesied in the Old Testament the sublime event which found fulfillment almost 2,000 years ago. Just as Isaiah foresaw the coming of Christ, so another battler for the Lord, St. Paul, summed up the law and the prophets in a glorification of love which he exalts even about both fail and hope.

We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation as an indistinct and doubtful, far-off event unrelated to our present problems. We miss the purport of Christ's birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever-living and true God. In love alone - the love of God and the love of man - will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today. Slowly, sometimes painfully, but always with increasing purpose, emerges the great message of Christianity: only with wisdom comes joy, and with greatness comes love.

In the spirit of the Christ Child - as little children with joy in our hearts and peace in our souls - let us, as a nation, dedicate ourselves anew to the love of our fellowmen. In such a dedication we shall find the message of the Child of Bethlehem, the real meaning of Christmas."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Today

Today when I was waiting to get my car it's smog check I passed by a person I assume was homeless. He was just sitting there, making eye contact with no one, asking nothing of anyone... just sitting there. I don't believe I got within 6 feet of him, but even at that distance I could smell him. He smelled so bad!

I don't like bad smells and it absolutely pains me that this would be such an obstacle to me. I read books about the poor and homeless and loving them....... yet I don't think I could ever sit down with this person. I really don't.

And it bothers me to admit this.

Angels We Have Heard On High

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hots praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men! Luke 2:13-14

"Les Anges dans nos Capagnes" was a French carol dating from the 1700s, which appeared in several different versions. It was published in English in 1862, the words saying:

Angels we have heard on high / Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply / Echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

An older version had the title "Harken All! What Holy Singing!" The words, translated in English said:

Harken, all! What holy singing / Tell us when the seraphy bright
"Tis a hymn with grandeur ringing, / Sung by voices clear and high.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Still another primitive version speaks from the shepherd's vantage point, sayhing:

Shepherds in the field abiding, / Tell us when the seraph bright
Greeted you with wondrous tiding, / What you saw and heard that night.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Hymns are usually authored by human beings like us, but in this case obscure verses by unknown French poets were coupled with a refrain that was literally composed by angels in heaven: Gloria, in excelsis Deo. That's the latin wording for the angelic anthem "Glory to God in the highest!" It comes from Luke 2:14 in the Vulgate, the latin version of the Bible. The Latin word Gloria means "glory," and in excelsis is the phrase "in the highest." Our english words excel and excellent come from the same root, meaning "to rise" or "to ascend" or "to be high." The Latin word Deo means "God."

This was the song proclaimed by the angels over Shepherd's Field the night Christ was born. The musical score stretches out and emphasizes the words in a way that is uniquely fun to sing and deeply stirring, as we lift our voices to proclaim Jesus has come! Hope has arrived on earth! A Savior is born! Glory to God on High!

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Excerpt from Then Sings My Soul, special edition by Robert J. Morgan

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Does It Exist?

I'm currently reading Gabe Lyon's The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith. It's definitely worth reading but has fueled me with some questions and seriously challenges some of my long-held beliefs. At times, it has filled me with sadness, thinking that to be a "true" "effective" and " countercultural" is not something that a person like me can do.... and it bothers me, but there is much in this book I agree with and enjoy.

On page 162 in his chapter titled In Community, Not Alone, he quotes N.T. Wright describing vibrant church community:

"It's a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life. It's where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It's where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice. It's where you'll find people learning to pray, coming to Faith, struggling with temptations, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out. It's where people bring their own small Faith and discover, in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts."

I'm a cynic, and I seriously wonder if this is even possible? If I'm up for it and if it could ever be a reality in my life.

How about you? Do you experience this type of community in your church? Do you want to? What holds you back?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Skipping Autumn

I'm tempted to take a cue from the retail stores and skip Thanksgiving (and Fall) and go straight to Christmas!

It just seems so much more fun and compelling; plus, I love Christmas! The photos, the colors, the festivities, Christmas Carols and hymns, traditions, sights and smells, annual watching of Holiday movies...... and the reflection of God Incarnate; in the form of a helpless infant!

it's really so beautiful.

So... though I won't do this, I'm tempted to decorate now for Christmas! If I had tree, I'd put it up. I'm scouring Amazon and iTunes or new Christmas music. (Any recommendations?) I'm beginning to think about Christmas cards and family photos; it's all so much fun.

What are some of your Christmastime traditions?

Then Sings My Soul - Book Thoughts



Do you love hymns? Do you know someone that does? Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan, is a terrific book for someone that enjoys hymns, and even those that don't! This book is labeled "special edition." Perhaps it is labeled as such because the book is a tad bit nicer than your typical paperback, with a deckled edge and flaps. The paper itslef also has a nice, thick feel and its ivory color makes it easy to read and enjoy.

The book includes 150 hymns, separated into sections: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Patriotic, and other favorites. On one side of the page is the entire hymn's lyrics and words; the other side contains a bit of information about who wrote it, the inspiration or circumstances about when it was written and other interesting tidbits of information.

I enjoyed this book and found it quite inspiring, not only to read and re-acquaint myself with classic hymns, but knowing the stories behind many of them enhance my enjoyment of them.

I'd definitely recommend this book, and if you have a person who loves music, this would make an excellent gift!

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255