Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's Spring!

Spring sprang here in the Southeast quite some time ago. In fact, Sunday it was in the mid-eighties. I know some of you are jealous, but I have to admit, it only makes me think of the hot & humid weather yet to come...

ANYway, since spring is here, I decided that it was time to change up my template. Not that I did anything other than click a button or two, thanks to the web gurus who create these things for us lowly humans! So that's what's up with the colors and switcheroos.

Maybe it will freshen things up around here. I doubt it will make me want to do spring cleaning...but that's a topic for another day.

Appreciating renewal,

(c) 2008

Ten Things For Tuesday: 10 Reasons I Can't Blog Today

I cannot possibly blog today. Not one word. Why, you ask? Well, here are ten reasons why I can't blog today:

1. I'm still off caffeinated coffee, so I can't think yet.
2. I ate too much at dinner last night and got home too late to exercise, so I must spend my free time taking a walk.
3. Inspiration hasn't bonked me in the head yet.
4. I'm not sure, but I think that the humidity level is too high (or maybe too low) for composing. You know, conditions have to be just right for such concoctions...
5. All of my blog friends have already stolen all the good material.
6. When I think hard enough to blog, a funny, burning smell fills my office. Hmmm...
7. I think I hear lunch, snack, and dinner calling to me. (This could be an all day affair!)
8. I'm trying to save my kinetic energy. (I'm reaching back to 8th grade science here, so correct me gently if need be...)
9. I have to save the good topics for non-list days!
And finally...
10. I'm still in mourning for my missing caffeine addiction.

Well, there you have it...The definitive list as to why I can't blog today. But check back tomorrow. Maybe by then I'll be awake.


(c) 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Creme Brulee Heart

My favorite dessert in the world has to be creme brulee. The crusty shell of pure SUGAR protecting the soft custard underneath... mmmmmmmmMMMMMMMM!!! I can still recall the first time I had it, after one of my very first Broadway shows in my hometown... And Friday night, I realized that creme brulee was probably a good analogy for my heart.

Sometimes, for no particular (or at least identifiable) reason, I find myself pushing back against God and His truths. My heart becomes covered with a hard shell, not wanting to let in the words God is speaking to me. Rich Mullins reference this idea in one of his songs, when he said, "I'd rather fight you for what I don't really want than take what you give that I need." It is a bizarre phenomenon, as I know that He is what I really want and need...and yet, as if out of my mind, I fight...

And yet beneath that crusty shell, my true heart is soft and sweetly fragranced by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And what breaks through that shell, bringing me back into alignment with His Truth and His Spirit? Corporate worship. Especially corporate worship in song.

Friday night, I had the privilege of participating in a worship service. In the middle of the music, I found myself once again with a cracking shell, humbling myself before the Father as I remembered the great sacrifice of the Son. And I realized that, though worship should happen privately too and should never cease, I need those times when the body gathers and sings and reflects... It is when this creme brulee heart is best restored.

Anyone else hungry?


(c) 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's Morning...Again

It's morning again, and it's been a tough one again. Not in the same way as last week, but still, tough. And I'd like to add that--despite an excellent night's sleep--the decaf coffee isn't cutting it. :-)

But more than that, my heart is just burdened due to the interactions I've had already today, some my responsibility, some I just bear the brunt of.

I keep thinking that God's mercies are new every morning...and I am grateful, for without this, we would be 'consumed.' But today...so far...I just want to go back to bed and wake up to a new morning and ever new mercies. :-} Or maybe eat a ton of chocolate. Don't worry, I'm not going to...but it is very tempting. (And thus I've revealed my great coping skills... (-: )

No great revelations here. Just real life. But real life in Jesus, and that's do-able...
Just one moment at a time,

(c) 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm Gonna Need A Support Group

Yesterday, my doctor told me I had to give up all caffeine... No COFFEE!! No DIET DR. PEPPER!! I can't bring myself to believe that he meant chocolate, so I'm excluding that one.

I know, I know, they make decaf of these things now, but you and I both know it's not the same... How will I ever wake up in the morning?! What was he thinking?!

Okay, okay, I'm calming down now... I just wanted to ask you to pray for my roommate...And my co-workers...And anyone who has to have contact with me over the next week or two as I detox. There may be some concern for their physical safety...

And if anyone has survival stories out there, feel free to share them. It would be good to believe that one can survive without caffeine. I'm sure your stories are fairy tales, but nonetheless...

Caffeine-less, but with many other things for which to praise God (I just won't be able to think of them until 3:00 PM...),

(c) 2008

Ten Things for Tuesday - Psalm 103

Well, it's that time again, boys and girls! Can you say, "Ten Things for Tuesdays"? Great, now go put on your slippers and sweaters and we'll all join together for a sing-along...

Whoa! Childhood flashback! Sorry about that! :-) Now, on to "Ten Lessons From Psalm 103." I have a ton of things rolling through my head and heart right now, and I hope to capture some of them here soon. But for some reason, my brain was focused on Psalm 103 when I awoke this morning, so that's what you're a-gittin'!

1. Praise! This is a command, not a feeling or a song. Recount the great things He has done. That's all it takes.

2. ...O my soul; all my inmost being... Dig deep. Praise should not come from your lips, but from your heart.

3. ...and forget not all His benefits... Wish your or your spouse's workplace provided more 'benefits'? Well, when making your list, be sure to include God's 'extras'. You know, that's really what they are: He met our greatest need in the death and resurrection of Christ. But look at all the extras He gives!
- He forgives all my sins
- He heals all my diseases
- He redeems my life from the pit
- He crowns me with love and compassion
- He satisfies my desires with good things (not just any old thing!)
- He renews my youth like the eagle's (Isaiah hasn't yet written his tome; David gives us the original 'eagle' reference--and this is waaaayy better than any youth serum you've got at home!)

4. He made known His ways to Moses... God could have remained hidden for all of eternity. He could have simply chosen to let things take their natural course: Hell for all sinners; not one of us in heaven. But He didn't! He revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses...He gave the law, that we might learn how very desperate we were for Him. And then, He spoke to us in person, and--for the vast majority of my readers, at least--He grafted us into the vine, that we too might be partakers of His salvation. A revealed, hidden, invisible, flesh-clad God. Who is like our God?!

5. ...He does not treat us as our sins deserve...[but] as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. I still don't understand this kind of behavior, this kind of love. But He didn't give us what we earned; He offered us what we could never have acquired. Such mercy...

6. ...He remembers that we are dust. What if God held us to the standards of the heavenlies? Perfection? One chance? But he remembers--despite our protests to the contrary--that we are merely dust in which He breathed. He knows how very frail we are. And so, ...the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him...

7. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's* love is with those who fear Him... How we respond to God matters. His promises and blessings here are for those who view and treat Him with the reverence He deserves.

8. The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. Keep perspective. God is HUGE and POWERFUL and ATTENTIVE. He is still on His throne. The chaos you & I see and feel around us is not truly out of control.

9. Praise the LORD, you His angels... Ever ponder how your status in Christ puts you in a position to exhort others--even angels--to praise Him!? Wild stuff, this journey of ours!

10. Praise the LORD, O my soul. And one last thing: Don't forget to praise Him!

I love this Psalm, these reminders. Hope you are blessed today remembering them too! :-)


* LORD is different from Lord. These are two different names for God, and the translators have clued you in on it through the use of all caps/cap-lower case. I love LORD, as it is the name God uses for Himself to indicate His covenant-keeping-ness!

(c) 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Laughing Out Loud

Okay, in light of my last post, published but moments ago, I found this quote on my friend Beth's blog hysterically appropriate:

Build yourself a bridge and get over it.

Bwahahaha!! Did I ever need that this morning! Maybe I'll just quote that to myself next time I get irritated pre-coffee! (And maybe solving this irritation is simpler than it felt!)

Smiling again,

(c) 2008

Morning Interruptions

I've shared before that I'm not much of a morning person. I'm not truly awake for a couple of hours after I get up, thought I'm not usually grumpy or irritable. I realized today that there is one exception to that rule.

If, in the course of those two hours of 'waking up' time, someone or something really gets under my skin, I find that I struggle for a long time (read: hours) to get myself back on even keel. The ability to brush things off or forgive or just to let the negative feelings leave seems to simply disappear, and my heart apparently becomes fertile ground for sin and struggle.

I had a morning like that today. Someone got irritated with something I had done; not something wrong, just something different from what they would have done. I don't think they were even angry, but I got irritated that they were irritated with me over something so unimportant. I felt they didn't have the right to be frustrated.

UGH! And two hours later, I found myself still struggling. I found myself telling the Lord how much I was looking forward to eternity, when I would be freed from this body and the fights that can go on within my spirit. And then, a whispered thought entered my brain:
So what if that person was irritated over nothing; you don't have right to be irritated over anything.

All the Scripture I had been trying to apply and the prayers I had been whispering came into sharp focus, as I realized that I did not have the right to be irritated, even if this other person had done something wrong. I had been nursing an attitude of justified indignation, but it was a false sense of justification.

Somewhere back on that cross, my claim to rights was crucified when Jesus--the only one with any true rights to claim--gave up His right to be honored and glorified, his right not to die a criminal's death. And when I was joined with Him, I agreed to give up my rights too. So even when I am unfairly accused--in the littlest of things (as in my case) or in the greatest of things--I do not have a right to be mad. Jesus, my perfect example, demonstrated this for me.

My feelings of frustration have dissipated now. I now understand this this truth in ways I didn't before this morning. But what I don't know is if I have really 'gotten it.' Has this passed into the fiber of my heart? I guess the only way I'll know is if I get to try out this new muscle in a similar situation, and I must admit that this thought does not thrill my soul. But knowing that God is working to make me a perfect reflection of His Son does thrill my soul. So I guess I'm willing to have morning interruptions...but maybe I could have some coffee before we do this again.

Clearly still in development,

(c) 2008

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. --Psalm 130:3-4

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grace's Definition Expanded

I receive all kinds of devotionals and Scripture-related items in my inbox each day. I need those kinds of pricks and prods to keep my heart focused. Today, in my devotional from Chuck Swindoll, I found this:
Esther exhibited a grace-filled charm and elegance. In Esther 2:9, the literal translation of the original language says, “She lifted up grace before his face.” Isn’t that a beautiful expression?*

As I read this translation, my first thought was exactly, "Isn't that beautiful..." And then Dr. Chuck said exactly that! It made me smile. And then I got to thinking.

You know, grace isn't something with which I was born. I'm not graceful physically--You have never seen so many bruises on a person before due to simple clumsiness! I'm not graceful in speech--Don't believe me? Remember this? I don't naturally extend grace to others; my reflex (and fleshly) reactions are ones of judgment and standard-holding. This is who I was born as...but it is not who I long to be.

I long to be a woman of grace: speaking grace into others' lives; extending to those around me even a smidgen of the grace God has bestowed on me; moving with poise and grace. Many prayers have gone heavenward regarding my graceless heart and tongue. And every once in a while, God's Spirit peeks through my gracelessness and shines forth His grace. Yet I long for more.

Long ago, I memorized this verse: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29, KJV) The NIV translates this as, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And so very often, I have found myself praying for this, that the fruit of my mouth might benefit those who listen.

So if you find me graceless, please know that I'm working on it. For more than anything I want to lift up grace before the face of my Savior. And when I do, I promise it will bring grace to you too.

Still in development,

(c) 2008

*Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “Strength and Dignity,” in Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1995), 195. Copyright © 1995 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Web Quizzes and Their Worth

Okay, this post is just to share in the irony of my blog-friend Sarah. I, too, apparently cannot take these web-quizzes well, as this is what my "What Kind of Shoe Are You?" quiz said:

You Are Bare Feet

You are a true free spirit, and you can't be tied down.

Even wearing shoes can be a little too constraining for you at times!

You are very comfortable in your own skin.

You are one of the most real people around. You don't have anything to hide.

Open and accepting, you are willing to discuss or entertain almost any topic.

You are a very tolerant person. You are accepting and not judgmental.

You should live: Somewhere warm

You should work: At your own business, where you can set the rules

Okay, here's the irony. I don't go barefoot. Even in my home, I wear slippers. And no one would EVER call me a 'free spirit.' I'm only now learning to be comfortable in my own skin, and I don't like warm weather. And if I worked for myself, I would die of starvation; I need structure and rules in order to thrive.

So there you have it. I'm pretty sure that this quiz stuff isn't for me. (Though the possibility exists that this quiz was made up by someone with no known qualifications who has no idea what s/he was talking about... I'm just sayin'.)


(c) 2008

Ten Things for Tuesday - Simple Meals I Enjoy

Quickly now, for I'm a day late! Ten Simple Meals I Enjoy:

1. A whole wheat wrap spread with 1-oz. goat cheese and a bed of spinach, topped with a cooked egg, rolled.

2. Baked spaghetti squash, topped with no-sugar-added spaghetti sauce and fresh Parmesan &/or Romano cheese. Even better if you saute' fresh zucchini in olive oil and add that to it!

3. Equal portions of romaine lettuce and fresh spinach (I usually go with 2+ cups of each) topped with a Macintosh apple, diced. Add one tablespoon of Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing and mix thoroughly.

4. Slice any mixture of fresh veggies until you have 6-8 cups; I commonly mix sweet potatoes, yellow or sweet onions, zucchini, yellow squash, baby carrots and/or halved Roma (plum) tomatoes. Over the veggies, press as many cloves of garlic as your heart desires. Drizzle with with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and mix thoroughly. Spread on a baking stone or sheet, and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper. Roast for 25-35 minutes in a 400* oven. (Might be 450*; I always have to check my notes, which are not accessible now.)

5. A can of Progresso Light Southwestern-Style Veggie Soup!

6. Stir-fry veggies (fresh or frozen) and light firm tofu, cooked. Add low-sodium tamari sauce and place over cooked brown rice. Yum!

7. I'll sometimes grab a seasoned steak from the store and cook it and sliced zucchini in my grill pan topped with my grill press, turning each once while cooking. Top the zucchini with a touch of salt or seasoning and you're done!

8. Take fresh salmon and drizzle a few drops of olive oil over it, spreading the oil around with a spatula. Sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice over it then press some fresh garlic over it. Top with Herbamare (a low-sodium seasoning mix I found at the health food store). Bake at 450* for 16-22 minutes, until opaque throughout. Steam some fresh broccoli and enjoy your feast!

9. Dice (into large chunks) a pound or two of fresh tomatoes (I use Roma) and drop them into a deep skillet containing 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Top with seasonings of your choice; I use Italian seasoning, salt, and fresh pepper. Let this simmer while you cook some ditalini (a small pasta that looks like macaroni cut in thirds). When cooked, stir the ditalini into the tomatoes, and add 4-8 oz. diced fresh mozzarella cheese. Add chiffonaded fresh basil (or dried basil, in a pinch). Let it all simmer for a minute or two more until the cheese is melted, then serve with a fresh salad &/or steamed green beans. I promise you'll love this! (Not too light a dish, though.)

10. A bowl of cereal! (I learned this one in college, only then it was Lucky Charms!) I often eat Kashi or FiberOne cereals, with ground flax seed on top. I use light soy milk.

I am not a health-nut by any stretch of the imagination, though terms like soy, tamari, and flax seed may lead you to believe otherwise. I just have found a few things along the way that my body likes or are good for my health and have added them into my diet. Hope you enjoy...and feel free to share your ideas! I love new food ideas!


P.S. I noticed ten favorite ingredients, too: olive oil, zucchini, fresh spinach, Roma tomatoes, soy products (tofu, soy milk, tamari), grains (brown rice, whole wheat wrap, flax seed), seasonings, salt, fresh pepper, cheese (Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella)!

(c) 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Great Things for God

A few days ago, I found myself pontificating in an email to a friend:
"I'm kinda of the opinion that Christendom tends to glorify roles it shouldn't--pastor, missionary, counselor--and glosses over what God values: a broken and contrite spirit, lives lived in quiet surrender and faithfulness. Exactly where did God tell us to do great things? I'm pretty sure that He told us to be faithful in the little things...oh, I see my soapbox came out again. Sorry about that... :-D"

I found it ironic that I should pen such words. Great Things For God was my mantra for the better part of two decades. But God held a different opinion, and He finally got me to sit still long enough to hear it.

I was somewhere around seven the first time I remember hearing one of those, "They want a missionary to come, but there is no one to send," stories. And in my heart, I echoed Isaiah, "I'll go! Send me!" From that point forward, whether with thrilling acceptance or self-focused rejection, going as a missionary became the central theme of my life. When walking with the Lord, I knew this to be my goal and my calling. When embracing my sin and self, I wanted nothing to do with it.

For twenty-plus years, this was the drumbeat to which my life marched. The experiences I sought (e.g., summer Bible club teacher, teaching ESL overseas short-term as a 'tent-maker'), the people with whom I spent time (e.g., missionaries), the education I pursued (Bible, education, ESL degrees)--even the mission-focused churches I joined--were all focused on preparing me for long-term ministry cross-culturally. Over the years, my focused narrowed, honing in on a certain region, a certain type of ministry, certain philosophies of ministry, certain sending agencies.

And then, in 1999, the movement stopped. There was no going, only waiting. And so I sat, apparently spinning my wheels, waiting for the plane to stop circling and land. And I waited... And I waited some more...

By the time 2004 rolled around, I had been waiting for 25 years. And I was tired of waiting. It was starting to seem like I was to be permanently located state-side, and I just felt I needed to know where to apply my energies. The question went something like this: Lord, I've been waiting a long time. Am I staying or am I going? I just need to know where to point my nose.

That evening, I continued in my regular place of study, reading from Ezekiel. And God said to me:
You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel--not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you.

And I literally choked. I gasped. And I knew with absolute certainty that God was answering my question. I was not being sent. I would not be going.

I cannot overstate the shock waves that went through my life. Absolutely everything in my life had been pointed toward going. What was I to do if I wasn't going? What did this mean?

I spent at least two years just trying to absorb this message, this change in direction. How was it possible I wasn't going? I was sure--and am to this day--that my calling overseas/to cross-cultural ministry was from the Lord. How could I both be called and not? It brought to mind Abraham, and the son of promise. Isaac was the son of promise, yet Abraham was called upon to kill him. How could he be both dead and the father of a nation? How could both be true? And yet they were. And so the same was true in my life. Called to go; told to stay.

Over the next several years, many, many lessons were spoken into my life in the absence of this vocation. Many misguided philosophies were unearthed and replaced. Many experiences reshaped my perspectives and even my desires. And into my life, God spoke quiet words, like:
*Was it for the place, the people, or for Me that you were going? (This is exact evolution of my motivations; the 'for Me' part came only after 2004.)
*In all the hours you've spent knocking on My door, asking me to change your circumstances, I've been working on changing you.
*I don't need you to do great things for Me, J. I am great, and I will show Myself mighty. I am calling you to be faithful.

Oh, how I still wrestle with this last one, at least in part. I have found peace in the knowledge that God doesn't need great things from me. In fact, I have found relief, as I am pretty sure I can't do great things anyway. But being faithful, day in and day out, in the little minutiae of life, in the mundane things in my world, this is where I am weak. If you ever need someone to tackle a project or to 'come to the rescue,' I am your woman. I am great in the exceptional moments of life. I am terrible at coming through day after day after day in the piddly details.

This, I might add, is the lesson I am learning in my weight-loss journey. I could easily fast for a day or two. But being consistent in reducing my caloric intake and adding exercise to my schedule regularly are much harder tasks. They require dying to self daily. They require faithfulness in everyday moments.

So here I sit, not going, but growing, learning how to be insignificant, a minutiae-managing pro. It is a lesson I must master, for though perhaps someday God will see fit to add something else to my plate, I will never need to stop being faithful. That is where my calling lies...in the daily.

So today, I'm not attempting great things for God; I'm just trying to be faithful. If anything great happens, you can be sure it was all Him.

* "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' --Matthew 25:21
* Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. --I Corinthians 4:2
* But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness... --Galatians 5:22
* Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. --Revelation 2:10


(c) 2008
Scriptures quoted from the NIV.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

God's Grace Is Bigger Than My Graceless Mouth!

Remember my lament a few weeks back about the girl I 'called out' publicly in one of my discipleship meetings? Well, I've received both grace and mercy on that one!! Mercifully, the fallout I deserved didn't happen, and Grace has given me a growing relationship with her!

Over the past few weeks, she has sought me out to ask Bible questions (You showed me this in the Scriptures, but this other person said that; what's up?) and to share with me the often-difficult 'goings on' in her life. She still seems eager to build our relationship...and that is unmerited favor if there ever was some!

And I am so grateful...

Praising God!

(c) 2008

Tired, But Not In Charge

Today has been busy...
--Garage-sale-d early (and I don't usually get up before the sun!!)
  • Got a nice armchair for my study (which T's truck kindly came and got for me!)
  • And floor pillows for my girls (the girls I disciple, that is) to crash on when they come to visit.
  • Also got the game of life for $1--mostly for nostalgia purposes. Of course, it might be nice to get a career, a spouse, life insurance, bonuses, etc.! LOL!
  • I found a little water fountain for my office; I need the background noise when the childcare program is going on right outside my door.
  • Also picked up a couple of little things for my niece and nephews, but I don't want to give away any secrets here, since their parents have been known to drop by...
--Worked a bit: This morning was the three-hour dress rehearsal for a major performance tomorrow--Haydn's The Creation! I greeted the orchestra members & guest soloists, handed out checks to the aforementioned, and made sure the choir and director of worship & arts had everything they needed. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's performance!

--Did my federal and state taxes: At least this year it wasn't on April 15! The good news is, I'll have some money to pay toward my stupid (aka, credit card) debt soon! :-) That makes me very, very happy! But...since I 'don't do numbers,' I'm pretty worn out from the effort! Turns out the IRS likes numbers. I guess there are just some people in this world like that...

--Checked on my cyber-world friends. Everyone seems fine, at least those who posted. :-)

--Spent the last couple of hours researching and trying to determine the chronology of Saul/Paul's life, particularly the Acts 9 vs. Galatians 1 parts. When did that man go where? And when was Galatians written? UGH! I am exhausted, and I haven't even worked it all out yet... And worse, that's not the main part of my lesson tomorrow; it's just the pre-work.

Despite my love of teaching, I don't really love researching. But based on a recent post (and a 75-page-ish work in my files proving the deity of Christ) by Uncle Bob, I happen to know he does like researching. Wanna do my homework for me, Uncle Bob? Please...??? ;-) I'll get you started: There's this guy named Saul, and he went to Damascus, and Arabia, and Damascus, and Jerusalem and then to the area of Syria/Cilicia... ("Let me 'splain. No, too much. Let me summarize." -Name that movie, anyone?)

Okay, so I do have some of it worked out, but it is a bit mind-bending. Especially when you realize that somewhere between a period (.) and the word "When," there are trips and years that aren't mentioned there (see Acts 9:25 & 26 and then compare it with Galatians 1:17 and following, if you feel the need to verify...).

BUT, here is where I ended that trek: I am so glad that God's got all this down. While I should be a good student of the Bible, if, despite my efforts, I still get the periods of Paul's travels mixed up, well, I'm not the one responsible to track all events on the earth. (This sentence composed as a special tribute to Sarah! LOL!) God knows when Paul was where...and when I was too. :-)

All that to say...I'm really glad I'm not in charge. And I'm really glad God is the keeper (and originator and end-er) of chronology.

Though I'm really looking forward to Uncle Bob's research... :-D

Now, I'm off to a play...right after I finish this lesson...

(c) 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Celebration of Marriage

As the first-born, I have naturally known them the longest. Well...not counting all the people who knew them before me, but I hate to digress for the purpose of accuracy. Moving on...

I've known them for a brief (*cough*) 35 years. They've known each other for a scant 3 years more. I've watched and learned, listened and ruminated, and in the process I've learned what real love is.

I've learned what it means for lives to be joined for the better and for the worse. I've seen the heartbreak and the sweet moments of respite. I've been there when tempers got short and when humility won out. I know there are days that they stuck it out simply because it was a covenant they had made. I know there have been times laced with warm-fuzzies and tender kisses, too. And the beauty of all of it is that Dad and Mom chose God over self, commitment over ease.

And because they chose these things, they have bequeathed them to their children, all five of us. Such gifts are not lightly given; they are born out of sacrifice, out of choosing correctly day in and day out. Nor are they lightly taken. Two sisters gracefully married. My brother within days of marriage. My handicapped sister, perhaps more than the rest of us, has been blessed to have these lives ever present in hers. And I, single, have--more times than most unmarrieds--been able to share with married women what that lovely, messy bond we call marriage should look like--not because I've 'been there,' but because I have been present when it was lived, day in and day out. Each of their children are bearing forth fruit fertilized by their love and commitment.

There is a humorous story told in the family of a conversation between the two newlyweds. Mom, curled up in Dad's lap (as she would be so often over the years), asking, "Why do you love me?" A dangerous question, fraught with perils my father did not apparently sense. "Because I choose to," came his contented reply. The contentment was no longer a shared emotion...

But one of the great truths our parents passed on to us is that true love isn't about heart flutters, though those come sometimes and are lovely. True love is about choices that reinforce your original choice to commit yourself to the support, encouragement, exhortation, and pursuit of Christ-likeness of and for another. True love, as has been said before, is a verb.

At the time, my mother didn't appreciate the value of my father's statement, as no young newlywed bride would. But love that is chosen is far more powerful than love that is fallen into. For falling out of love is sure to happen, and then where will you be? But chosen love mirrors God's love for us: it sees warts, weaknesses, and all, and still chooses you. That's the kind of love that will sacrifice, will die to self, will die for you.

I could fill my blog daily with the lessons my parents have taught me and not exhaust them. But on this day, on their thirty-seventh wedding anniversary, I want to highlight this: The commitment you have continued in and the love you have shown bears fruit now to the third generation. Thank you for thrilling in the lovely times and for choosing in the tough ones. It mattered then and it matters now. What a beautiful example you are. Your lives will echo throughout all of eternity, to the praise of His glory.

With all my love,

P.S. Sibs, I'd love to hear from you on this.

(c) 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.
-Carl F. Henry, as quoted in the NTM calendar, April


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ten Things for Tuesday

Hmmmm...It's that time again. Time for me to come up with ten things that share a common bond, or ten things that are completely random. Today I can do about half of either. Let's see what I can cobble together for you...

Ten Things I Wouldn't Want to Be Without on A Deserted Island:
1. Dental Floss - I know I have issues here, but flossing is a big thing to me.
2. Lip Balm - I am totally addicted; I cannot stand my lips drying out.
3. A Bible with a Good Concordance & Cross-References - I need those helps!
4. Bug Spray - Mosquitoes LOVE me! (Ergo, summer is not my favorite season!)
5. SPF1000 Sunscreen - I fry like an egg!
6. Body Lotion - I am drryyyy, baby!
7. Anti-Perspirant - I am dry, except where I'm not... and I really hate being all sweaty.
8. Hmm...Uh, work gloves? They made me fearless last week...
9. A fully stocked, self-refilling grocery store with a great produce section - You wouldn't want me to have to hunt or grow my food, would you? Pu-lease.
10. People - okay, okay, so this makes it not a deserted island, but who said I wanted to be on one in the first place? Perhaps what I really need is just a vacation to the tropics...Wanna come?


(c) 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Patient Speed

Last night, I read through God's glorious promises for Israel's future as recorded in Isaiah 60. So many beautiful things await them; a true restoration for Abraham's descendants will one day occur. And then, at the very end of the chapter, God says this:
I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.

Check that out:
1.) I am the LORD: The promise is based on the character and nature of the one making it, Yahweh. It matters who is promising. (I might note here that this is the name God uses of Himself when He wants to point out his covenant-keeping nature. This particular name of God is used here intentionally, to reinforce this fact.)

2.) In its time: Never late, but never early either, God fulfills every word He has promised...at the appropriate moment. This reminds me of a New Testament reference to the coming of the Messiah: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5, KJV)

3.) I will do this swiftly: I love how God juxtaposes the ideas of patience and speed; in its time:swiftly. Israel is waiting for God's complete restoration, but when the waiting is done, it will happen quickly!

I love remembering the future God has for Israel, because it leads me to understand the future God has for me. When Israel rejected her Messiah, she may not have understood, but she rejected the offer of the kingdom at the same time. But no matter her past sins, the promises God made to her before then will be fulfilled--because the promises were not based on Israel, but on God.

This gives me hope. God's promises to me are not based on me, but on Him. So even when I sin, or choose self over Him, I am not left bereft. I am still heir to His promises. The seal of the Holy Spirit assures me of this (cf Ephesians 1:13-14)!** My sin doesn't set me outside of God's plan, because the promises were made based on HIM!

So many things in life seem like they are pending. But when God gets to fulfilling His promises, there will be no delay. In its time, swiftly. 'Cause that's just the kind of God I serve.


**Don't hear what I'm not saying: I am not saying that it doesn't matter what I do or that our behavior doesn't affect our future. Our behavior, choices, sin, and righteous acts do matter, both for rewards and for His glory, and this would make a great discussion for another time.

(c) 2008

Road Trip Learnin's

A friend and I just did a long-quick road trip: A long drive and a quick trip across the South to the Midwest, and back again. Eighteen hours...one way. We left Wednesday night and returned on Sunday afternoon. Are you doing the math?

Now, I'm not as crazy as I sound; this trip was necessary. However, I was a tad surprised at how pleasant it all was! (I was really expecting it to be exhausting.) And, I learned/saw/discovered a few things along the way. Thus, my Road Trip Learnin's!

On this trip, I...
...saw the largest blue jay I've ever laid eyes on.
...remembered the beauty of the Midwest.
...checked on Beth's home state. I'm glad to report that it's all there and in fine condition. I check on it for you going both directions, just to be sure! LOL!
...learned that I am a better rested person than I was the last time I made this drive eight years ago. That came in really handy, since both drives were through the night! Staying awake while driving is something I heartily endorse!
...discovered that I can be handy, even in the country! I really enjoyed getting to help through physical labor. I don't know that I would love it if I HAD to do it everyday, but it was enjoyable to put the muscles to work!
...realized I am fearless when I don a pair of work gloves. Hand me that filthy tool! Let that bug just try to load himself! Super-Gloved J to the rescue!
...learned that I am in better shape than I thought. Though a fair amount of heavy lifting and positioning was involved, and though I am somewhat sore, I really don't hurt much at all. Except for that growing bruise on my knee, which is something else entirely.
...rediscovered that I am still afraid of wasps....and probably all other stinging creatures. Really, really looked like a city girl when one showed up in my face. My host barely blinked and then killed the booger. Oh to be so fearless...
...discovered that there are still non-super Wal-Marts! Who knew?
...realized that I tend to eat poorly when on the road and out of life's normal rhythm. What made me think a cream-filled doughnut and a large french vanilla cappuccino from QuikTrip was a great breakfast idea?? (Guess who's going to the gym tonight!)
...remembered that I DO still miss QuikTrips! Good thing, too, as I might die from heart disease if one was nearby (see above)!
...noticed little changes that God is making in my heart. I was able to release more to Him and to really trust Him to work in others and in me more than in the past. I saw, in tiny ways, Christ's patience and love working itself out through me. Though the two ladies I spent most of the time with may comment to the contrary... ;-)
...enjoyed the time I got to spend with T & Anna. Shout out to Anna, as this is the first blog she's ever viewed. I'm honored to have you aboard! :-)
...realized that even work can be relaxing when it's a different kind of work from what you usually do.
...slept well every chance I got! ;-)
[After-Publication Addition]...learned one can get a sunburn in 40-degree weather!!! Do the top of my ears hurt!

Better run for now. I have another post in my head that I need to start working on. See you shortly!

(c) 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ten Things for Tuesday

Well...it's that time again. I'm starting this as I drink my coffee (a good thing!) and will probably finish it later. Since I like themes (and order!), I think this week's list will be Ten Blessings God has sent my (our) way.

1. Coffee...or more specifically those little chemicals that form caffeine. This is a huge blessing; it just makes mornings easier for this non-morning (yet, non-grumpy, just-still-sleepy) person. :-)

2. People...though sometimes not perceived as blessings, even the irritating ones are accomplishing God's purpose in my life. And how else do I get to fulfill Christ's commands? Love one another, pray for one another, serve one another, esteem others more highly than yourself, be devoted to one another, honor one another, accept one another, don't pass judgment on one another, speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, etc.

3. The Holy Spirit...At church, we are studying through the book of Mark, and we keep running into the real ignorance and lack of understanding on the part of the disciples. And yet, it struck me strongly this week that without the instruction of the Holy Spirit in my heart, I would be just as ignorant and lacking in understanding as they. Probably more so. So, thank you, Lord, for teaching me through the constant presence of the Teacher and Your Truth in my heart.

4. Technology...When working correctly (and this is a BIG qualifier), technology helps shrink our world. I live more than a thousand miles from my nearest relative, (and nearly 10,000 miles from the farthest one) and yet I stay in touch on a regular basis through phone calls, email, and blogs! Even tribal missionaries can often send emails and connect to the web these days! I realize that Satan uses these things for evil, but God is using these things for good too, and I am grateful.

5. Language...While it is estimated that 80-90% of communication is non-verbal, that last 10-20% is crucial. I cannot express my deepest thoughts and the desires of my heart without words. Without words, I cannot focus my own mind well, as I do so often through organizing my thoughts here. And while all creation speaks His name and breathes His praise, the truth of salvation from sin and new life within through Jesus Christ can only be clarified through words. The Word became flesh so that we might know Him, in both the verbal and the non-.

6. Weakness...I used to think I needed to be strong. This was a problem, because I knew in my heart that I was weak...often weak beyond words and in so many ways. One grace of age is that the strength I used to try to project when I was young(er!) cannot be sustained indefinitely; I can no longer keep up the pretense of strength. I am weak. Really weak. Really insufficient. So why am I grateful? Because the weaker I know myself to be, the greater my dependence on Christ's strength in me. And that is how it should be. So...here's to weaklings!! And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. --2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (KJV)

7. The Word of God...Do I even need to flesh this one out? How about I just say, Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36, NIV)

8. Time...While time is often my enemy :-), it is also a boundary, like the beach for the ocean, that God has set for us. It allows a structure and rhythm to our days...see! I can't even describe life without speaking in time-terms like 'days'! Time is where God has placed us so that we might learn to know Him and accomplish His purposes for us. Someday, in His presence, we will live outside of time as He does. But until we have glorified bodies and glorified minds, time is a gift. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, KJV)

9. Beauty...So very much of this world is corrupted by sin and this life is so often filled with pain, would it even be tolerable without the firebursts of glory He shares with us? Glimpses of His own beauty spilling out into our consciousnesses through our senses: the colors of spring flowers, the scent of a summer storm, the sound of a Bach composition, the smoothness of a baby's skin, the culinary delight of chocolate ganache over layers chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry sauce... Aren't each of these--and so much more--reflections of Him in the grimy place we call life? And isn't He beautiful?

10. Conclusions...God may not fill in all the gaps for us, but He doesn't leave us hanging on the endings. In the end, we are clean, Christ reigns, heaven really does come to earth, and our enemy is defeated! In our lives, things don't continue without end, though we may suffer for a little while. Ecclesiastes phrases this as, "This too shall pass." Even eternity will be filled with the plans God has for us, new conclusions followed by new starts, with beautiful new conclusions again. Only He Himself, His Word, and we His people will last forever, without end. And as someone who likes everything tied up with a bow, it is enough for me to know the He is the author and the finisher, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end...and the beginning again. ;-) And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 5:10-11, NIV)

Because of His Loveliness,

(c) 2008