Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Wonderful Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

To Christ, Who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore.

(O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
O the wonderful cross, O the wonderful cross
All who gather here by grace draw near and bless
Your name)

Words: Isaac Watts, (1707) Music Lowell Mason (1824)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Actually Happened

On one hand, the resurrection is a fact to be believed. On the other hand, it is an experience to connect with. If you have one without the other - if you believe in the resurrection as historical fact but have never experience the resurrection personally, orif you think of the resurrection as a spiritual experience but don't believe it was a fact - you come out with a form of religion with no power.

My question is: Do you know them both? Do you believe in the resurrection as a historical event, and have you also had that profound personal experience of spiritual resurrection? Christianity refuses to be stuck in either category. It is not all about rationality, or it it all about mysticism. It's both. On one hand, Christianity is about beliefs, propositions, and ethics. But that's not enough. You have to experience him to know him. There has to be a real connection. And on the other hand, Christianity is not only a mystical religion. It's not like Eastern religions with no rational content. Christianity has hard edges to it. It says, "This is true, and this is false. This will get you saved. This will get you damned. This actually happened."

Timothy Keller

From the book Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross by Nancy Guthrie

Monday, March 29, 2010

Did He?

"Was he flogged? It was done so that "by his wounds we are healed" (Isa. 53:5). Was he condemned though innocent? It was done so that we might be acquitted, though guilty. Did he wear a crown of thorns? It was done so that we might wear the crown of glory. Was he stripped of his clothes? It was done so that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness. Was he mocked and reviled? It was done so that we might be honored and blessed. Was he reckoned a criminal, and counted among those who have done wrong? It was done so that we might be reckoned innocent, and declared free from all sin. Was he declared unable to save himself? It was do that he might be able to save others to the uttermost. Did he die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful death? It was done so that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

Let us ponder these things well: they are worth remembering. The very key to peace is a right apprehension of the vicarious sufferings of Christ."

J.C. Ryle

Taken from Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross, edited by Nancy Guthrie

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In The Sound

6:30. In the morning. My daughter Katie comes in asking us if we know what she heard. I roll over and in a raspy, near grumbling, monotonous voice say, "Yeah, it's the garbage truck." It was Thursday and the garbage truck woke me up about 15 minutes prior.

Instead Katie sweetly exclaims, "No! It was the birds singing. That was what I heard this morning. Their beautiful voices." Didn't you hear the pretty song of the birds?"

Honestly? I did not but I'm sure going to listen, look, and seek the Beauty of Today.

Children are such wonderful reminders.

Be My Guest

A few months ago in January my church had nearly a whole month of various guest speakers. Unlike some churches who surprise the congregation with a guest speaker, my church posted the list of who was speaking each Sunday.

Guest speakers scare me. I wonder if guest speakers scare others because it always seems like attendance is a bit down whenever it is known that someone else is speaking. I even threatened to "boycott" all of January but I know that is wrong. I even told my pastor of my "boycott" and he listed an author of book I really liked and asked if it would make a difference if he arranged for him to preach. Delighted I said yes, it would make a difference. I'd definitely come to hear him. Which made me feel a bit bad, because I realized I'm a consumer christian. It's all about me and what I wanted.

I like to say and think that church is not just about good preaching, though I admit that is a huge draw for me. I know that church is about community; a place to come and interact, share and praise God together. Do I come to church just for my own benefit? Do I come to serve? Do I come hoping that I'll be an encouragement to another? Do I come to worship and glorify God?

Turns out that the month of January was filled with guest speakers that really made an impact in my life, some I'd love to hear again. The "theme' of the month was change and indeed, every week things changed a bit, away from the familiar and the routine.

I will still admit that I inwardly groan when I hear a guest will be preaching on Sunday. I look forward to Thursday when my church sends out its email stating the message title and who is preaching. (oh, the correct term I guess is "communicating") I can say that I'll go regardless of who the speaker is but I do sigh with relief when I know my pastor is preaching and things won't be too radically different.

Although, in my church, I never fully know what to expect! And I actually for the most part, do enjoy that aspect of church.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Theology Matters

"I've come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God's nature - what he is like, what he wants torm you, and whether or not you will answer to him - affects every part of your life.

Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong."

Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep

This is something that really matters to me, as I believe theology is important and agree that what we believe will influence and impact our behavior and our actions.

I am one that asks a lot of questions and I know I infuriate a lot of people by it, and yet I want to know the answers. I want to understand and it bothers me when I don't understand.

I realize that not all my questions will be answered and I'm attempting to be fine with that, but it hurts me when I am thought of as too knowledge, or "head" oriented instead of "heart" oriented, which is of course better than just having the knowledge but failing to put it in practice. Head knowledge is akin to a pharisee and everyone hates pharisees. Even Jesus did not like that bunch of people.

Yet, the opposite if what I run into a lot: this sentiment of we don't need to know or study the Bible because what is more important is to be living it.

I think it is both. I think by knowing and studying God we will love and be filled with such joy and gratitude we can't help but live out our faith in good deeds to others.

What do you think? Do you find any merit and value in studying the Bible? Does Church history excite you? Does Theology Matter?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To Feel

To feel compassion is to feel that we are in some sort and to some extent responsible for the pain that is being inflicted, that we ought to do something about it.

- Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lent (is stupid)

I just said it: the "S" word. (in our house, "stupid" is the "S" word.... they don't yet know the other word)

Lent is stupid.

I stated out eager to celebrate lent. I think it was just the novelty that drew me to it. I wanted to anticipate Easter as I anticipated Christmas and thought giving up something for forty days would accomplish that.

Has it? Not sure.

Of course, I do think of God more when I desire a diet coke and I really do want to help the Ugandan people have clean water. But right now, I really want a diet coke!


I have less than 2 weeks go go now and instead of it being easier, this is the hardest time ever and I'm second guessing why I started.

I know that lent is not required. I know that lent doesn't magically deepen one's relationship with Christ and I know it doesn't prove or is required for salvation and devotion for Christ. That's the reason many protestant churches don't observe it.

Yet I thought it would be beautiful and meaningful. And it has but now I just want a diet coke! So here's my rationalizations:

1. Since lent is not required, what is its purpose? Why am I doing this?

2. Most others have broken their promise; in fact, it is even expected that people break their lent promise. Perhaps the real reason for lent is to experience forgiveness for not being able to follow through with stuff like this on our own? In that case, perhaps it would be a better, more "spiritual" experience for me to "surrender" and just drink a diet coke and ask forgiveness and repent from breaking lent.

3. In conversation with my pastor, he mentioned that lent was a heart issue. Not just legalistically following through but the motivation behind it. Well, I'm pretty sure that (aside from donating money to Blood:Water Mission) my motives are bad, so if wrong motives equal this being worthless in doing, why not give up?

4. If I do accomplish it, will it be "my accomplishment" rather than God leading and teaching me?

5. Doe lent just result in guilt? Is guilt from God? Does he want us to feel worthless by failing at this?

6. I really, really miss diet coke! (why does my birthday have to fall during Lent? That was tough)

7. Perhaps it is becoming a pride issue for me? Perhaps it is actually wrong for me to do this. Will I feel superior that I kept at it? (will I feel inferior if I fail?)

8. Even beverages I hate are beginning to look appealing and I wonder at times if taking a sip of my child's too full juice cup constitutes drinking a beverage. (sine I'm a legalist, it does and I've refrained..... but I so want to "accidentally" drink something other than water!)

If the reason I'm doing this is for Blood: Water mission to raise money for people in Uganda to have clean drinking water, why can't I just donate money and still drink my beloved diet coke? I'd probably give more money because I felt guilty.

I started out determined and I still am. (but that diet coke is really beckoning me in the refrigerator!) Now I am looking for excuses to give in. Either way, in my mind, I can't win. I can't give up so close to the end and yet, I am really wondering WHY I'm doing this! Am I continuing on because I don't like failure? Because I'm proud and hate to admit I did not make it?

I was talking with a friend who also is observing lent and wow, I'm amazed by her willpower, but more than that, she's really doing this for God, reminding herself of what she's giving up and why and what that means. She hopes it will heighten her Easter experience. I wanted that too......

but right now I just want a diet coke!!! Oh, this is torture.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's My Birthday!

Today is the beginning of the last year of my 30's. Wow. I don't feel so old.

A few days ago I was feeling a bit sad about my birthday. Not so much because I'm old..... more so because I felt an absence of friendship.

I'm an introvert. Supposedly 75% of the world's population is extroverted, so I'm in the minority. I did not quite fully realize I was such an introvert until last year. I'm also melancholy. I personally find this a bad combination and I truly rebelled against the label of "melancholy" for several weeks before realizing it actually explained a lot, and even helped to realize that's just me and I view the world and have expectations that others may not share.

Take friendships. You are not my friend. Well, if you read this blog, you probably are because I seem to connect better and more easily with folks through my writing. But the people I see every Sunday, I don't call them friends. We may be nice to each other, hug each other, but if that is the extent to the interaction, I don't truly think of them as friends

In fact, I have levels of friendship; oh yes! It is sadly complex! But there are people that I truly do love and feel connected with and risk more of myself with.

Yesterday I was dreading today. It bothered me that even my "good' friends would either forget it was my birthday, or just respond t it exactly as a friend I haven't talked to since high schooler did: Though a one sentence facebook sentiment. It made me quite sad.

Yet I was wrong; Today the facebook comments made me happy and content. Some were funny, some sweet. Some were a bit more personal, and that emphasized the depth of my friendship with them. I really enjoyed seeing even those that I rarely talk with wishing me a happy birthday. I actually felt special.

Of course, I still laughed that the only birthday card I got in the mail was from my insurance agent! And I laughed even harder this morning when the only phone call I got was again from my insurance agent, noting I'd been with the company for over 10 years.

Did I have a perfect birthday? By other standards, no. As I type this my husband is away doing something for a dear friend that had to be done tonight. He was genuinely sorry for having to leave. (he'll make it up to me; I've no doubt) My kids made me a cake and frosted it themselves. I have to admit: I generally don't like to eat things that they make and I'm not even sure they washed their hands before putting the sprinkles on the cake, but I ate it anyway and loved being with them. My five year old made me card after card and story upon story for my birthday.

I'm happy. It's going to be a great year!

PS. The photo is the lone card from my insurance agent that I got in the mail. :-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekend Ritual

I confess: I don't believe I've ever made pancakes or waffles. EVER. I'm not a breakfast eater; don't like eggs, toast, pancakes and all that. So, I simply don't make breakfast.

My family LOVES breakfast and luckily David is a wonderful breakfast cook, especially when it involves Bisquick. Before kids, he'd make himself breakfast, and now that we have kids, every Saturday morning is a pancake of waffle morning, only now, David doesn't have to make the batter; the kids also have the recipe memorized. If we have to miss this breakfast tradition, my kids are very, very sad.

This morning I was playing with a nice camera that was on loan to us, and lacked any interesting subject to early in the morning so I took photos of Reid and Katie at the breakfast table and realized that I just might have some OCD kids. (I'm teasing)

Reid, like I do often, has to cut on the waffle lines. Of course, to me this makes perfect sense because it keeps the syrup in it's proper place. He was meticulously cutting on the lines. This is pretty typical of him; he works slowly and so painstakingly to perfect much of what he does at school and at home.

Katie is rarely afraid to get messy, so I was surprised to see her also taking her time to fill every single square of her waffle with syrup. It took a LONG time. I wonder if it made it taste better?

I love these mornings.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crazy to Lend

I just purchased my third copy of Crazy Love by Francis Chan. The first time I read it I posted on Facebook that I had finished it, was asked what I thought about it and promptly asked if I'd loan it out.

Of course! It's too good not to share.

That was nearly a year ago. So, back in October I bought another copy, put it on my bookshelf, then, on a whim, brought it to the women's retreat with me. Somehow his book came up in conversation and I mentioned that I had it with me. Again, it was asked if I could lend it out.

Of course! It's too good not to share.

(never mind it was a perfectly brand new copy I hadn't even opened yet)

This is a book I'd love everyone to read. I should buy copies to give as gifts, as I love Mr. Chan's insights and passion. He backs up his thoughts with multiple passages of scripture, and written in an easy to understand yet convicting way that makes one WANT to be a believer in word as well as deed.

So, I purchased a new copy. It should be here on Saturday. I already have someone that wants to borrow it.

Of course? It's too good to share?

How much is too much? I just want to keep my own copy on my bookshelf!!

But truly.... it is too good not to share.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Antithesis of Consumerism

".....I think a life in community is the antithesis of mindless consumerism, and a great way to start living as a follower of Jesus in community is to connect with others around the globe through daily prayer.'

Will Samson, Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss?

"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."James 4:17

Last week, my pastor's message was about absolute truth and later he blogged on the subject, stating that truth is personal and is found in a Person. (Christ) Of course, I asked a lot of questions; it is what I do. I was a bit surprised when my comment was answered by the idea that one has to be "true" to oneself.

That sounds so relative. I don't like relative! So I questioned and received an answer based on James 4:17. "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin," pointing out that truth is revealed by God's word and His Spirit.

I've been thinking on that a lot because it makes sense and yet, I don't like it. I think I've always been drawn to a set of absolute rules over the concept of grace. Grace is a lovely concept but does it really make sense?

I still have a lot of questions and I wonder if I just have questions because they are easier than accepting answers. Yet the biggest questions in my head are about this concept of truth and it being a personal nature, at least to some degree.

In Bible study, we discussed Colossians 2, and it brought up the subject of holy days/rituals and if it was okay to participate or abstain from them. We discussed how these "extra" things don't save a person, so it really comes down to motivation and the heart of why one is pursuing or observing things like that. A friend brought up the fact that we have to be true to our beliefs; if one thought observing something like that or eating a certain food was wrong, then it was wrong for them. If they had no such conviction, then it was okay for them.

It's relative.

Does truth "change colors as it changes climate?"(Pascal)

After thinking about this way too much, I wondered where the idea of "Ignorance is bliss" comes in. If it is know what we ought to do and not do it...... what if we simply don't know? Are we to be held for truth we are not aware of? Are we to be held accountable for a truth that is bigger and broader than our own personal truth that may allow us to indulge without much of a conscious?

Is ignorance bliss?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Claim His Name

"If the Adversary [God] were to return to the earth, as he threatened, would he recognize as his followers those who claim his name?"

Os Guinness, The Last Christian on Earth

Monday, March 1, 2010

Changing Names

I was thinking the other day that I wish I could change my name. Not really; more figuratively. i feel like I am thought of in a certain way and I don't like it yet feel trapped there. I'm difficult. I'm negative.

I want a name change! I no longer want to be difficult and negative.

I've been reading about Jacob the last few weeks. I've so many questions but one thing stuck out. Well, a lot of things stuck out! But one is that God changes names. Jacob was named Jacob because it meant "he holds the heel" or something similar to that. (as you may remember, Jacob was a twin and the secondborn son of Isaac and Rebekah, the firstborn being Esau. The name Jacob also meant "deceiver".

There are so many points in this story to discuss but the interesting thing is that Jacob's name meant deceiver and that is exactly what Jacob did; he deceived his brother out of his birhtright and his blessing.

Yet, God changed his name. Not only did he change Jacob but he also changed his name to mean "He strives with God" after he wrestled with the Lord.

This isn't the first instance of God changing names; I can easily recount Abram/Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Simon to Peter. In each instance he not only changed their name but he changed their identity.

I want a new identity.