Saturday, November 30, 2013

The things we hear

How has the past startled you? Have you looked at photos and wondered who you were? Heard a story from a different point of view that changed how you look at things?

I'm 18 years old. I've just spent three hours listening to someone I consider a friend. And Nora has told me how awful my family is: too snobby, too smart, too willful, we think we're too good for others, and our worst crime of all? We're willing to think and do things other families don't try. She says she likes the safety of limits, and she hates that we don't recognize those constraints or stay within them.

I tell Nora she's probably misunderstood us, wave goodbye, and go inside the house. Of course, I write it all down so I can think about it.

Nearly 40 years later, I find that journal entry. (Be careful what you tell a writer.) It's several pages long because the conversation went into great detail about our family's inadequacies. I winced - and shrugged - when I wrote it. And I winced - and shrugged - again when I read it yesterday. It made me sad in some parts and made me laugh aloud in others. The things our family loves - learning, tackling new things, and finding creative solutions - were the very things she resented and disliked in us.

People rarely say what they think to our faces, so then and now I pondered Nora's frank appraisal. I summed up the conversation as "pure poison without a point." But I internalized the fears I heard, Nora's worries of not being enough, of not trusting, and of wishing she was someone else.

I pulled back from her, of course. But I also saw others differently. Nora had named those in our circle in years of interactions that I didn't remember. I'd hurt them and they'd talked behind my back.

Who's talking about you behind your back? Does it influence your behavior? Do you care? There's often a grain of truth in we overhear about ourselves, no matter how strangely the "facts" are presented.

An interesting observation
Nora had a chip on her shoulder and deep insecurities. If others had confronted me, would I have been more serious about my surroundings and been kinder and more careful in my friendships? Probably. That might have meant being less open. Taking fewer risks in exploring what was possible. Not going as many places with as many people. I doubt that was possible, judging from who we all were back then.

As I read the rest of the diary, my shortcomings and imperfections are obvious. Compared to most of my peers, I was a wild-thinking teenager. Modern parents might put me on ADD meds. On the plus side, I was endlessly curious. I easily acquired languages and information. I didn't mind swimming a long way or jumping off cliffs into unknown waters (literally and figuratively. Remember Harrison Lake, you guys?) I might scream while my heart pounded in fear, but I'd try anything once if it wasn't immoral or illegal. I never intended harm even when I felt the least patient with others. (Going to college probably saved my mind.)

Do pacesetters and visionaries take this to heart?
I'm wondering about how we'd redo our lives. Are there things you would change? Do you have regrets about things you've done (or not done?)

Living in the past doesn't serve us. I long ago forgave Nora her attack. I hope she found security and recognizes her value as a person - just as she is, beyond comparison to others. We are who we are. If God is pleased with how he made us, shouldn't we be happy with ourselves?

In heading toward a new culture, reading my diary is helpful. We don't know the signals for caution or avoiding faux pas in Indonesia. We can only trust God, do our best, and ask friends to let us know when we miss the mark or overstep the boundaries.

"Lord have mercy," she says sincerely, shaking her head and closing the journal.

Read more:
*Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1, 26 ESV

*Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record? Psalm 56:8

*Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21 ESV 

*But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness. 2 Peter 3:10-11 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Creator, many lives are filled with grief and sadness. Through your generous grace and lifting spirit, help dry the tears of those who weep and bring comfort and laughter to those who despair. Amen.

CS Lewis in Mere ChristianityAnd now we begin to see what it is that the New Testament is always talking about. It talks about Christians ‘being born again’; it talks about them ‘putting on Christ’; about Christ ‘being formed in us’; about our coming to ‘have the mind of Christ’.

Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago. It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Red or white?

What do you think?

Red slipcovers for Christmas?

Christmas 2012

or stay with white?

Christmas 2013 - in process

When the votes come in, most are for red. The before and after: (for a few weeks).

Before: white and bright

After: cozy for Christmas

Got a preference? If so, why?

Taking time to be thankful

Gratitude makes us healthier and happier, according to recent studies. Are you feeling good, after setting yesterday aside to give thanks for all our blessings?

This year, I'm grateful for:
  • you the reader. How you encourage me with your comments and interactions all year long!
  • our little grandson, born healthy 2 days ago
  • family who loves us
  • friends who nurture us
  • safe shelter, plenty of food, and warm clothing
  • God, who generously pours out blessing upon blessing, entrusts us with free will (the ability to make choices that help or hurt others), and heals our hearts when our choices - and those of others - do harm.
We don't take any of these gifts for granted.

What made you especially thankful this year?

Anonymous quote
Read more:
*Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

*Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord. Jeremiah 16:21

*Through Jesus Christ we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name. Romans 1:5 ESV

Do not claim to be wiser than you are. Romans 12:16 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Heaven's Teacher, guide us as we constantly seek your truth. Open our minds to the glory, majesty, power, and peace of your everlasting love and give us the strength to bring your good news to the world.

Knowing Father, help us to feel the glory of your truth and make it a part of the road we travel. Grant each of us wisdom and hope as we move through our days, sharing your words and deeds along the way. Amen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Conference review

We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The wo/man who thinks s/he knows something does not yet know as s/he ought to know. But the wo/man who loves God is known by God. (Paul, in 1 Cor. 8:1-3 - gender inclusion mine)

As long as we assume we're smart and have all the answers, we remain dummies. We write off what there is to learn (unteachable) and avoid those who disagree with us (unreachable).

Tyndale House (UK) breakfast
An academic conference is an interesting experience. Beyond that, a religious academic gathering assembles a unique group of scholars. W and I spent almost a week in Baltimore at the annual co-meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and American Association of Religions (AAR).

Attendee garb ranged from conservative suits, ties, and polished shoes to Baha'i and African Catholic robes to Rastafarian deadlocks. How many attended? We scattered among hotels and the convention center. Usually, 6-8000 scholars come to read papers and listen to the latest research and religious scholarship.

Inside the Torsk submarine
at Baltimore's Inner Harbor
One pleasure was attending sessions of the Women's Caucus. Women scholars think deeply about their place in the world. I'm facilitating their newsletter, so I hope to learn a lot from these theologians, writers, students, and professors.

This year's publishing trend seemed to be syncretism, summed up as "whatever-path-you-take-is-acceptable." There was a lot of emphasis on creating a One-God for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. (Hmmm, why would God sacrifice his Son if that were true? Seems cruel to kill someone to provide "another option" of relationship with God, doesn't it?)

We're home with fewer books than usual. Each year we gather information on our current topics of interest. We're looking forward to reading the new ideas and new slants on old ideas. How blessed we are to explore God's Word and work.

What are you learning this week?

Read more:
*The Lord will reign forever and ever. Exodus 15:18 ESV

*Jesus said, "All things have been handed over to me by my Father." Luke10:22 ESV

*Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Eternal King, your dazzling peace and love spread across the heavens and the earth. We long for the day you will come again to reign over all; until that day, help us prepare your way by devoting our lives to you. Amen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mom gets the giggles

"You're doing what?" my mom exclaimed. "You're in class again? What for this time?"

"Coach training."

She started to laugh. "I hope you have a folder for all those papers."

It made me happy to hear my mom laugh. I chuckled along.

I don't do much with certificates of completion, though I did frame my PhD diploma. When we were cleaning the house to move, my Masters diploma appeared in a folder with pictures of our poodle, winning her championship in Wisconsin. That combination cracked me up.

Neither W nor I study just to study. We are insatiably curious about the world. God has filled it with wonders, whether those are relationships, ideas, or things. We're always thinking, "Tell us more!"

What do you love to learn? What fills your heart with amazement?

Read more:
*But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. Ecclesiastes 12:12 NIV

*I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge. 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 NIV

C.S. Lewis, on humility: "For each of us the Baptist’s words are true: “He must increase and I decrease.” He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures; I know no promise that He will accept a deliberate compromise. For He has, in the last resort, nothing to give us but Himself; and He can give that only in so far as our self-affirming will retires and makes room for Him in our souls."

“There is no end to learning, but there are many beginnings” ― Tim JohnsonBosley Sees the World

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Trustworthy Source

Today's guest post is by by Martha Ming, writer, leadership mentor, and friend.

Two old friends had an ongoing difference. One insisted that he heard the "Hallelujah Chorus" through the sounds of the city, coming from a distant cathedral.

The other, who was almost deaf, insisted that because he could neither see the cathedral nor hear the music, both were figments of his friend's imagination. Also, he had read accounts of others farther away, who insisted they too heard music, but the tunes they heard were not, "Hallelujah".

Neither the fact that someone who was mostly deaf could not hear the music nor the fact that others farther away did not recognize the tune or the source changed the confidence of the first man that he heard the "Hallelujah" from a distant cathedral. He had learned the tune and heard the cathedral described by one he considered absolutely trustworthy, and when he heard the distant music, he recognized it for what it really was.

The Lord Jesus, who sang for us the music of the kingdom of God, and who described the kingdom for us is trustworthy. We recognize the tune because of him. Not everyone hears; not everyone recognizes the tune and its source.

We try to live in the Holy Spirit in a Christlike way, so those who hear us sing the tune and tell of the kingdom will believe our message is trustworthy.

Chaos to order, more or less

What motivates you to clean up? I'm sorting through things. Again. It's 2am in a busy week of coach training but I can't sleep so here I am. Madness? Maybe. Hopefully temporary.

"I wish I could move in here!" That's the comment our guest keep repeating. "It's calm and uncluttered, not like my place." That calm comes at a high cost.

One rule of science drilled into our heads in high school said that everything descends from order to increasing chaos, or "everything is running down," not evolving into something better.

Most of us periodically fight the descent into disorder. We have surges of organizing, bouts of housekeeping, and indulge in spring cleaning. Some people naturally run toward order. Their floors are always vacuumed, their cabinet shelves immaculate behind closed doors, and their cars washed.

Since May, I've sorted, sold, and given away life-as-we-knew-it. Every time I get a little breathing space, I get another dump of stuff to sort. In the wee hours of this morning, I'm going through sewing things = a serger manual going back upstairs for the serger the kids said they wanted; the manual and bobbins for the beloved Bernina sewing machine claimed by our daughter; and a huge bag of donations for curbside pickup this morning.

What an ongoing chore for me as well as for my daughter-in-law, who's expecting a baby imminently and excavating her own boxes upstairs. Just when I think things are claimed (or slated to give away), we start another round with the same stuff. "Didn't you say you wanted this?" Oh yes we do. Oh no we don't. It's frustrating and exhausting for both of us.

I throw china, crystal, pictures, and books into bags and send them to the curb. Just don't care anymore. Don't want to touch them for the third time. Don't want to think about them. Don't care if they smash. Don't care if they get tossed.

With each donation pickup, my piles get fewer and thinner. W hasn't started on his stuff in the attic, garage or his office. I don't have to deal with that. I'm almost done with my end.

We crave order for many reasons. Are you an occasional or perpetual order-maker? Which of these match your motivation?

  1. That's the way it works best: we have limited space and time and order makes everything run more smoothly (my mom's motivation. She gets satisfaction from keeping a clean house.)
  2. Seasons and holidays: guests are coming so we put our best foot forward. We clean and decorate, viewing the rooms with fresh eyes.
  3. Exhaustion: we're tired of dusting and moving too many things so we declutter with garage sales and donation runs.
  4. Reinvention: we're ready for something new. We're spurred on by our New Year's resolutions or a shift in thinking. Our flurry of cleaning reflects our good intentions.
  5. Boredom: we are tired of the old, refreshing our spaces with new decor.
  6. Fashion: we pick up a decor magazine and realize that our 80s broadloom carpet and tufted sofas have seen better days. It's time for hardwood and clean lines.
  7. Relocation: moving to a different community or space.
  8. Life change: the new season of work or life doesn't fit the old life. Going back to school and need space on our desk for textbooks and a laptop? The kids have moved out and we can set up an office or workshop? They moved back in and we have to give up space?
  9. Other - why do you create (or crave) order?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Those golden opportunities

Do you ever look back in amazement on the things you've done and place you've been? I sure do.

Tomorrow, we have a golden opportunity to study under Master Coach Linda Miller. A bunch of us have signed up and are anticipating new info, skills, and tools. Her "About Coaching" page includes this quote: "First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do" (Epictetus). I want to be a better coach, so I'm taking coaching lessons.

What do you want to be?
Past life: musician and music teacher
How can you find out who you want to be and seize the opportunity to do what you need to do?
  1. Observe who you have been in the past. As a musician since childhood, I've always been interested in the arts. Is there something you've worked at before? Did you study a subject, play on a team, or excel in a certain area? How has that shaped who you are today?
  2. Think about what interests you and fulfills you in the present. When we moved to England, I reinvented myself as an "artist" to take art lessons. No one knew my past and no one cared that I'd only painted a few times at community center lessons. I was welcomed as an artist because I identified myself that way. Cool! Easy, too. How do you present yourself to others at work, at home, and in the community? Is this how you want to be seen and known?
  3. Printmaking course by April Richardson
  4. Consider who you want to be in the future. I don't have much access to a piano now but my paints are nearby. When my "art energy" charges up, I pull them out to play around. I love the memories that each painting evokes in me and want to increase that skill. I'll have to pick up my brushes often to improve my paintings. What gives you joy? Do you want to become known as a kind and unselfish person? A skilled wordsmith? A patient helper? A follower of Jesus who truly reflects God's goodness? What do you need to do to make your aspirations a reality?
Read more:
*You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Psalm 139:3 NIV

*Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Psalm 105:1-4 NIV

*Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 NIV

*... addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ... Ephesians 5:19-20 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Loving Father, you know us so well. You know when we rise and when we lie down. Help us to show our thankfulness to you by all we do and say, holy Father. Amen.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Breath returns

There have been few blogs the last few weeks. I misplaced my journal, which captures three pages of internal process each day. For that amount of time, writing elsewhere (and even leaving the house) has been an effort.

When you are a writer, words on paper or screen are compulsory not optional. Your fingers miss the grip on a pen or the tap on the keyboard: life plateaus in shallow breaths. You're afraid to think too deeply without somewhere to go if you hit a wall. The best ladders up and over the day or out of the night are words on paper.

I found my journal tonight. Mind you, I was desperate enough to grab the three empties from a shelf upstairs and bring them down to the apartment with me. If I hadn't discovered my heart's written hiding place, I would have had to start on a blank book. I was that anxious to write.

With ballpoint pen in hand, I spread the lined pages. Waiting, I begin.

In. Out. 
Internal quiet 
and singing.
Words on pages.
Grip that pen.
Joyful spilling
of a hurting heart.

What helps you breathe?

Read more:
*God does great things beyond understanding, and marvelous things without number. Job 9:10 NEV

*Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18 NEV

*Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation. 2 Corinthians 1:3 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Great Architect, often in our busy lives we tend to forget the marvels of life around us that you have provided. There is no better time than now for us to stop and appreciate all you have done for us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Amen.

CS Lewis in Mere Christianity: Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the ‘virtues’. In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are ‘good’, it does not matter being a fool.

But that is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of ‘prudence’ about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’.

He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim. The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not. The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old. It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Facing our fears

Do you ever feel afraid? Let's talk about that today.

As part of my transparency in this journey toward Indonesia, I admit times of fear. Terror. Dread. Reluctance.

Why? I'm a free-fall planner. That is, I work out details and alternatives in advance. But when push comes to shove, I go with the flow, changing my expectations and responses as life happens.

That doesn't mean I'm always happy with a change of plans. It doesn't mean I don't wonder if things will work out. And it doesn't mean I'm never afraid. (Adrenaline kicks in as the current takes my life-raft down the river. Off we go! The emotions and the possibility of disaster hit me afterwards.) Baring a few crashes, things have worked out pretty well so far.

Which of these common fears has crossed your mind?

  • The unknown: what if life is completely different than expected? Can we adapt?
  • Expectations: what if we're not good enough? If we don't meet the expectations of self or others?
  • Being overwhelmed: what if we get stressed out and can't cope?
  • Failure: what if we flop? Miss the mark? Miss the whole target? What happens then?
  • Harm: what if we get hurt? Ill? Die?
  • Abandonment: what if we're forgotten? "Out of sight, out of mind" became a cliche for a reason.
  • Making the wrong decision: what if we take the wrong fork in the road? Can God redeem our mistakes?
Here's what I've learned from facing my own fears:
  1. God never changes, though people and circumstances may. "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6; also Psalm 90:2); and "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
  2. God knows what's coming, even when we don't. We may anticipate things that never happen, expending energy on useless worries. (Read Psalm 23 for assurance.)
  3. He is with us. Moses, Gideon, and other leaders experienced "God With Us." Jesus was that promise (Matthew 1:23).
  4. God is big enough to cover everything we can't control: "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8).
  5. God has our backs when we fail or don't live up to expectations: Jesus continues to be our intercessor and Savior. "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus ... is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (Romans 8:34); and "A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified" (Galatians 2:16).
  6. Though we are limited, God is limitless. Acknowledging God's infinite power and ability, assures us that we don't have to manage the world (or ourselves). Job replied to the Lord“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42:1-2).
  7. We're going to be okay. Troubles certainly will come but God promises rescue. We might as well trust God and move ahead. "From the ends of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2). Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me(John 14:1).
  8. God will bring people alongside, if we are willing to ask for - and accept - their advice and help. "Moses’ father-in-law said to him, 'This isn’t the right way to do this. It is too much work for you to do alone. You cannot do this job by yourself. It wears you out. And it makes the people tired too. Now, listen to me. Let me give you some advice. And I pray God will be with you.' ... So Moses did what Jethro told him" (Exodus 18:17-19, 24).
What fears are you facing? What (and who) will help you face today and the future?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dirty laundry

Our new laundry: tucked
into our clothes closet
Those clean clothes in the closet? Once we put them on, they start getting dirty. Funny how that happens.

Think about the world. It gets washed regularly. God's wash and rinse cycles include sandstorms, rain, and wind. When there's a drought, the leaves get dusty and grey. Then God washes the dirt away with a storm.

Don't you marvel at how good God is at cleaning things? The environment, left to itself (excepting deadly toxins like nuclear waste), "renews itself." Leave a house alone and it becomes overgrown, collapses, and turns to compost to feed nature's next cycle. Let a lake or river move the garbage away and it becomes clean and clear. A forest fire torches scraggly brush, overgrown paths, and rubbish: a few years later, the woods have begun to come back, fresh and new.

That's the way it is with people, too. We bring our dirty laundry to God and he washes us "whiter than snow." We can't clean up more than the outside ourselves. Even when we look good to other people, our hidden inside needs a "deep clean" that only God can do.

An old-fashioned washboard
If you're feeling unworthy, unclean, or unloveable, approach God with a humble, willing heart. Let him clean you up - he paid a high price for your restoration = the life and death of his own Son.

If you've previously asked Jesus to cleanse you, check whether the influences of your surroundings have stained you. The wonderful thing about accepting God's forgiveness and provision is that we can start clean - over and over each day.

Read more:
*Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress. Psalm 31:9 ESV

*Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent. Acts 18:9 ESV

*Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 NEV

*Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV

*The Christian who is pure and without fault, from God the Father’s point of view, is the one who takes care of orphans and widows, and who remains true to the Lord—not soiled and dirtied by his contacts with the world. James 1:27 TLB

Moravian Prayer: O heavenly Protector, while our days may be filled with trials and concerns, we know you are with us. With your knowledge and gifts, help us to spread the word of your everlasting love and grace. Amen.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The strangest things

We saw two very strange things today. I feel stunned. Am I on another planet?

First, a Christmas tree decked in "sitting Buddha" ornaments - at a high-end interior decor shop.

Second, a series of Advent calendars without a single Christian option - at two separate stores.

Are these not weird? What is the strangest item you've seen lately?

Read more:
*I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15

*Christ says, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses." Acts 1:8

Moravian Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your promises to us. To show our appreciation, we promise to be faithful witnesses and help others come to know you as their Savior. Teach us to speak in the right time and way to share our faith with those we love. Amen.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The day the dog coughed

Ready to please
One of our funniest family moments came around the dinner table, when the dog coughed. Let me explain.

While pregnant with our children, I would develop a cough that lasted from about 4 months of gestation onward. I looked forward to the ends of pregnancy: my ribs and back muscles were seized up between the habitual coughing and rib-kicking that ended with the birth of the child.

Whether from that or another cause, each person in our family coughs. In the morning, we usually cough our way into the day. When there's in a long silence or we're intent on a lecture or conversation, we often catch ourselves relaxing our throats with a cough.

When the kids were growing up, we typically prayed "around the table" after dinner. W started, then the children from oldest to youngest would pray, and I'd wrap up. At some point of listening and waiting for our turn, each one of us would clear the throat in a cough.

We cracked up the day our poodle coughed, sitting politely at the foot of my chair. There was stunned silence, then we broke into laughter. Sweet Katy, always eager to fit in! Prayers were over. Probably, God chuckled with us.

We reproduce who we are
This morning I read Hebrews 1:In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture. Think of the poetic image of "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his nature" (NIV). Don't you love that? Jesus exactly represents his Father. Want to know what God is like? What would He do if He were among us? Look at Jesus - the Son is the exact representation of God.

What characteristics and behaviors run in your family? What are you passing along to your children?

Families look alike
Are these good qualities of character and being? Worthy traits to be renewed from generation to generation? Kindness and truthfulness. Disciplined living. A bent towards the arts or athletics. A way of speaking or laughing with others.

Or are there patterns that need to be broken so that they are never again passed on? Abusive speech. Manipulation. Lying and stealing. Cheating or adultery. Devaluing the young or old.

When we are born into God's family, the traits of His nature begin to form our own character. Like most adopted children, we begin to take on the mannerisms of our Heavenly Father and his Family. He changes us into His image, forming in us a reflection of the Eldest Son, Jesus. How wonderful is that?

Read more:
*Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:8 ESV

*Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dead to the world

I opened my eyes to squint at the time on my computer = 6-something. "Why did he turn on the light in the other room?" I groused silently at my husband. "He knows light wakes me." But I got up.

Ummm, the light wasn't coming from a bulb. We have a 2'X3' window in the other room. It was sunlight insisting it was day. I checked my watch: it was actually 8:30 a.m. That fine man was long gone to teach. And I'd slept like the dead through his departure. "Sorry, dear."

"Dead to the world" has several meanings besides sleeping deeply. When we were young, the pastor would immerse converts in baptism with these words: "... by which I demonstrate I am dead to the world and the world is dead to me." Have you heard that lately?

Seems we forget that, just as we are present while sleeping, we are fully alive in the world. For most of us, being "dead to the world" won't mean fleeing into a monastery or living in the dark woods far from civilization. When we're dead asleep, we're completely on the bed. Our bodies, minds, spirits, and emotions stay with us.

But our state is altered. We wait unconscious to surroundings, our bodies and minds renewing themselves in rest.

That's how it is to be spiritually "dead to the world." The affections and attractions of our surroundings no longer capture our attention. We are attuned to the Father's presence and His work. Though we are in the world, we wait for God's direction, uninterested in participating in impure or evil thoughts or actions.

Would you like to spend the day with God, watching only Him, doing only what He asks of you? That's what we promised Him and our witnesses when we were baptized.

God opens our eyes to the needy, shares our skills with the helpless, and spreads our love among the broken ... as we live dead to the world and alive to Christ Jesus our Lord.

Read more:
*What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. Psalm 50:16-17 NEV

*Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you?" Luke 6:46 NEV

*What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. From Romans 6 ESV

Moravian Prayer: We thank you Lord for your willingness to forgive our foolish acts and decisions. May we find ways to follow your example and lead more honest lives deserving of your love. Amen.

C.S. Lewis: He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.