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.


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 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

A Petition

I'm starting a petition at church tomorrow, trying to garner support for the worship crew to sing U2's Magnificent during church as a modern-day hymn. I've been waiting for years to hear a U2 song in church.

What do you think? Appropriate or not? Is there a line between the sacred and the secular? (of course, I am the person who had a fi about Black Eyed Peas song "Let's Get it Started" playing after my son's baptism....)

But U2 is a whole 'nother story!

How He Loves

I was reminded of this beautiful song this morning and wanted to share it. It was covered by David Crowder band but he changed the lyric of "sloppy wet kiss" to "unforseen kiss." Personally, the sloppy wet kiss lyric is so meaningful to me.

What do you think of this beautiful song and the artist's heart who wrote it?

A friend noted that I don't normally like "Jesus is my boyfriend" song.... but I don't categorize this a a "boyfriend" song.....what do you think?

Friday, November 5, 2010

What If?

I struggle with community; much of my posts have been on community and belonging and my angst over how and where I fit in at church and life and in my community. I desire it, but the "doing" part of it is so difficult!

I really am a person who seeks shelter in my home and rarely invite others in.... and I like it that way. I like being "attached" to community on my terms, through the safety of the internet and facebook, or at scheduled times at church. Nice and neat, everything is well defined. I like this.

Yet.... I do want more and I want to obey and reflect Christ and I'm pretty sure He's not content with little replies on Facebook. He's not nice and neat and safe. Was it Bonhoeffer who said, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die?"

As a child I've thought it odd that Mr Beaver said of Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, ""Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you."

And I still wrestle with the idea of "safe." I want a safe God, I want a safe religion and I want and crave safety.... but the more I reflect on this, the more I realize that I desire comfort, not safety. Comfort.

This is hard to write because in my church, comfort is a horrible word. It, to me, it is an admission that I don't love or trust Jesus. Not enough. I like to think I'm not interested in comfort, but when I really think about it, I am.

Jesus in not safe. His upside=down kingdom scares me...... and I try to make sense of it in my terms, trying to figure out where the borders and lines are....... when it comes to forgiveness, mercy and love. When it comes to finances. When it comes to sharing life with others. I want safety. I desire comfort. I don't want to invite someone over because I'm afraid. (and if you tasted my cooking you'd be afraid too!) I'd rather be safe with the familiarity of friends and family who know me and accept me.

On facebook, I learned of a friend, someone not of my faith, whose washer and dryer isn't working. I've been in that predicament a few times and its so difficult, especially if you have lots of kids. There are some advantages to going to a laundromat; you can get 10 loads of laundry done in the time it would take me one at home! But I don't like going to a laundromat and I dislike spending the money and sitting there in the cold, hard plastic chairs waiting for the wash to get done and praying that I put it all on the right settings,

I could invite my friend over to wash her clothes in my washer, but..... then the excuses come: I'm busy today. I have my own laundry to do, My laundry room (the garage!) is a mess. I'd have to visit with her for 2 or 4 hours. She'd rather just go to the laundromat than hang out with me........ I could go on and on, but the real reason stems from safety and comfort. It is disruptive to my autonomy to share in that way..... and I live like we should all be autonomous and not lean on each other. When I need something, I fix/do it myself. I don't ask. I don't share. I don't include others.

This is the world I live in and the expected world. I wonder what it would look like in an upside down kingdom? And I wonder if I'm brave enough to go there, no matter what the cost.

What I Value

I was walking home from dropping my kids off at school this morning, looking around at the houses in my neighborhood, seeing an older couple get in their car and I thought, "will I still own this house when I retire?" Others are my street have lived here for 20 years, many nearly 40 years. Yet, I know that the "norm" is to keep buying better and bigger houses as one can afford to do so.

I started thinking about my dream house and where I live definitely doesn't measure up, but I'm happy here, at least in this "season" of life... so close to the kids' school and shopping and all that stuff. Will I remain here? I think I could. In some ways, I really want to.

My thoughts turned to what I value and what I'm willing to spend money on, so I pose this question to you this morning: If you could, and I don't mean through winning the lottery and having tons of extra cash, but if you steadily put money away and invested it and realized that you now have enough to purchase a bigger, nicer home, would you do it?

I don't think there's a wrong answer here, but for me, I started thinking of all the other "stuff" I could do with money, especially knowing there are other things I value, like vacation and friends and all that. Not even to mention volunteering and supporting organizations, ministries and mission.

I haven't yet learned the art of contentment yet. I hope I do, and I hope that my values and priorities will fall in the proper place, whatever that means. Please know, I'm not saying its wrong to buy a bigger, better house, I just am thinking that if I equate that with happiness and the "then I'll entertain/have people over/be in community" then I need to start re-evaluating the things I hold dear and start releasing my grasp on them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


"When the Christian faith is not only felt, but thought, it has practical results which may be inconvenient."

T.S. Eliot, as quoted in Gabe Lyon's book The Next Christians: How a New Generation Is Restoring the Faith

The Grace Effect

The Grace Effect is a book that surprised me. I thought it would be dry and it is refreshing instead. It is a great story and brings up a lot of questions about society as well as the injustices in society and especially in the realm of adoption.

This is the story of Sasha, a Ukranian girl who is adopted and her story, as well as the story of corruption that oftentimes accompanies adoption.

I enjoyed this boo, the way it is written is very intriguing you you can't help but want to learn more about the story and Sasha.

I received a free copy of this book through Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program and was not required to write a favorable review.

Random Ramblings

It is nearing 1 am, Im baking pumpkin bread and waiting for some laundry to finish up. The dishwasher is being run and the house is predictably quiet. My nice warm down comforter bed is beckoning me but I have to finish up! I want to say "unfortunately" I have prayer in the morning, but I consider that a blessing and a privilege, never "unfortunate." I can't wait for prayer in the morning. It remains one of the highlights of my week. Not sure why, but it is.

Back in August my husband decided to do some work in the house and we tore out a wall, repainted, replaced some appliances and put in laminate flooring. Though we still have a LOT to do, last week we arranged the furniture, still tentatively, but at least it's not all just clumped together in the middle of the room! We also put our TV back in its old location for now.... had to do that so we could see the World Series.

The past few days I've been having fun spending money. It really has been fun! I hate paying full price so I've been haunting all the discount stores. Can you believe all my dishes are 16 years old? They're all wedding presents! Over the years we've lost a few so now we're down to about 5 cereal bowls and plates. I've been doing dishes constantly. So yesterday I found a good deal on dinnerware and bought service for 12! I guess I should do some entertaining! I also replaced our cutlery that was missing quite a few spoons. Not sure where they go, but I was missing a lot of spoons. Now I have 12!

Back in Seattle we had a down comforter but I think I gave it away, but I still had a cream matelasse duvet cover and had been using it as a bedspread but recently purchased a new comforter. I chose a 600 fill with 450 thread count one over the 545 fill because I thought it was a "better deal." It was... but I have to say that the 600 fill comforter is pretty warm! I love it.... it is so cozy. I also decided to replace the old sheets, pillowcases, and changed the accent color of the room and bought a lot of throw pillows. My bed looks like a Grown-Up's bed now. (seriously... that is what David calls it) Of course, there's still a teddy bear permanently there. I like it. I look at my bed and it makes me happy now. I even enjoy making it in the morning.

Today I assembled 2 Ikea night stands. David's had a night stand for the past 15 years but I hadn't... until now. I still need to get a bedside lamp. Right now it just has a potted plant (fake) on it and several books. And a seagrass basket underneath. I'm not very good at assembling furniture... I guess I don't pay good enough attention. Regardless, it is done and I like it.

Oh, I bought way too much: lamps, a new utensil holder for the kitchen, a real potted plant (along with a few more artificial ones) A vase,... it was all so much fun. I also decided to replace some towels. As I went through my closet to rid the old ones, I realized that several (once again) were wedding gifts over 16 years ago! And they weren't top of the line Nordstrom or Macy's ones; they were simple ones from Mervyns, a store that no longer even exists! Some were from when we purchased this house, about 9 years ago. 16 years and 9 years is a long time for towels, so I feel okay replacing them, as well as the hand towels and wash cloths.

There's still a lot to do, but my house is starting to look like a home. The biggest thing it lacks right now is photos. I've hardly any photos in my house.... and I call myself a photographer! Crazy! I did buy some frames.... for 16.99 each! Amazingly, I can buy a framed print at TJ Maxx for about the same price!

Sorry for the incoherent rambling. I'm tired and I have to wait for the pumpkin bread to be done. And maybe just one more load of laundry, and.......

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I voted today, but not until 7:35 pm! The ironic thing? I had an absentee ballot and forgot to mail it in! Luckily I found it in time and walked it over the the school where the voting was taking place.

Hope you also voted.

Monday, November 1, 2010

For Justice

I love a challenge; I hate a challenge! Truly, I can't win. But I do think it would 't be appealing to attend a church that did not challenge me spiritually and my comfort and views on life.

But sometimes it sure does hurt!

I've written several drafts about the current series my pastor has been preaching. Living from the Inside Out: Making the Good News Good Again. I started out really enjoying it, and I still enjoy it, but 2 of the messages made me cry like crazy as I realize I struggle with community. (and I also seemed to view a comment he made as an attack on those who love books and reading about faith instead of doing it)

Last week was on work and I jokingly mentioned that it was his best one yet; as nothing applied to me since I did not work. Of course, I was teasing; there was much that resounded with me.

This week the topic was For Justice and his text was Luke 10, the Good Samaritan. I've read a wonderful book that addressed this text, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Tim Keller and I LOVE Tim Keller and so enjoy how he explains things, but I still have questions about mercy and justice. So it's no wonder I still have questions!

There's a part of me that doesn't believe we can live a love and mercy that has no conditions or limits. There's even a part of me that thinks: shouldn't there be limits? How many chances do you give a person? How much time and money should you invest? is it ever approrpriate to give up?

I'm truly thankful God doesn't give up; but it is so hard to do the same.

Tim Keller writes, "God's mercy comes to us without conditions, but does not proceed without our cooperation. So too our aid must begin freely, regardless of the recipient's merits. But our mercy must increasingly demand change or it is not really love." (Ministries of Mercy, page 93)

What do you make of this quote? To have no conditions and yet..... to demand change is certainly a condition! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.