Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas is Coming....

What, you say? It's time to focus on Noisemakers and Resolutions? Wal-Mart has heart-shaped boxes of candy in the seasonal aisle now, so Christmas is past?

If I counted right, today is the Sixth Day of Christmas.

Anyone have any fresh goose eggs they want to share?

Um, didn't think so.

Yes, we're bucking the whole country...but Christmas isn't over at our house. In fact, Christmas hasn't even really been experienced at our house yet.

We braved frigid temps, freezing rain (when it's raining and the temp is 17 degrees Fahrenheit, you bet it freezes on contact. Not what you want to experience whilst driving on US 31 North. That was one of the scariest four and half hours of my life...all I can say is, God is good, and I appreciate the obviously very heavy angels He sent along to sit on the top of our van to keep us on the road as we saw other folks exploring the side ditches), snow, high winds, fog that had us squinting from one telephone pole to another...oh, and thunderstorms to spend the last week with family.

And it was a wonderful visit. The highlight may have been the Caroling Party (the reason we were driving on the ice -- we had to be there in time to sing!). I've mentioned the Family Caroling Tradition before (most recently in The 2nd Advent Study), and this year we did it a bit differently.

As near as we can figure, the last time we gathered to carol was six years ago. The senior members of the two-family choir are finding it more and more difficult to get out and about in the cold and the snow, which was a large reason why we haven't gone lately. But this summer we began planning and we decided whoever could make it would meet and carol to our parents.

Which is what we did. There were 7 of the 'kids' and 5 'grandkids' representing both of the families that slyly met and went unannounced to parental doorsteps. My Dear In-laws were worried about us being in so late, with the road conditions the way they were, but they got over it pretty quickly once they saw what was going on. They were the third of three sing-to-parents stops and the snow was just changing over to sleet in Elkhart as we sang to them. They stood on the steps and sang with us...and said we had to invite them next year. So perhaps the caroling tradition will not fade away just yet.

But, that was there. Here at our house, the stockings have yet to be filled and the tree has yet to have gifts under it. So we will be celebrating Christmas at home on New Year's Day...the day of New Beginnings...the 8th day of Christmas.

Tonight we're eating pizza and watching 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'. Finally.

Merry Christmas ;)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Flashback # 25: Am I hungry?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Here's an entry dated Feb. 14,2008. I was reading through John Bevere's book Drawing Near at the time, but I don't know if this is a quote from the book or a revelation the book stirred in me:

Hunger is the key element to whether or not we pursue God.

A hungry soul will seek Him; a religious soul will go through the motions to give an appearance of seeking Him.

I think that's true...but I also think there are times when even a hungry soul must seek Him from an act of will. Sometimes, when I'm working hard on a project, I will neglect to eat. If I neglect to eat long enough, I lose my appetite and don't *want* to eat. I think spiritually we get like that too...if we let ourselves get too busy, even in the kingdom, to make sure we have some time to feed our own spirits from His table, we reach a point where we're not aware of being hungry. In both cases, taking nourishment is done as an act of the will, from the wisdom of knowing we must feed ourselves, rather than from hunger.

That isn't to be confused with a person who merely goes through the motions of religious activity in order to fulfill someone else's expectations. On the one case, there is still a receiving of spiritual insight...which will result in at least a small amount of change or growth. On the other, a duty is discharged but nothing changes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study

We've Been Waiting....

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

There was one other advent carol in the hymnal of the church in which I grew up...'Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus', written by Charles Wesley and set to the tune 'Hyfrydol.' It was one of my favorites, too...another good alto line.

But, if you look at the words, it is not about a coming baby...although it does reference His birth:

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth thou art,
Dear desire of ev'ry nation
Joy of ev'ry longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Now, look at them again. It isn't even about a physical kingdom...on earth OR in heaven...at all.
set Thy people free...release us from our sins and fears...deliver us, reign in us forever...bring your kingdom...rule in our hearts, raise us to your throne.

This is about the Kindgom Jesus talked about over and over in his earthly ministry. Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." - Luke 17:20-21 NIV. The kingdom is, as I've heard said, wherever the King reigns.

So...if I say 'Come, you whom I have been expecting for a long time,' I kind of have to admit to myself that maybe I've been just expecting Him to come when I should've been opening the door upon which He has been knocking.

I once had a dream that was rather odd in many ways, but I remember one line that has stuck with me. Someone in the dream asked me what I thought about the kingdom of God, and I replied, 'Jesus said the kingdom of God is within us...so I think that it behooves all of us to do what we can to enlarge His kingdom by bringing more of ourselves under His authority and dominion.' I've pondered that and pondered that...I can enlarge the Kingdom of God by allowing Him to increase in my own life.

Or, as John the Baptist put it when he was looking for the coming of the Messiah, 'He must increase and I must decrease'.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit -- 2 Cor. 3:18 NIV

And I look at my house, which is not exactly modeled after Better Homes and Gardens (someday I want to subscribe to a magazine titled Good Enough Homes and Gardens) and I look at how I have spent my last few days...weeks?... running to do What Must Be Done, and I see a lot that is not terribly glorious.

But you know, it's not so much the circumstances that need to change, it's my attitude. Because I kind of have the feeling that once I bring *that* completely into His kingdom, the rest will follow.

So yes, Lord, come into my perspective, my perception, so that I see circumstances through Your eyes. Bring Your kingdom into my actions and reactions. From my fears of rejection and judgment, and my sins of selfishness release me, so that I can find my rest in You in the midst of whatever I have to deal with each day. Unseat my 'self' so that you alone rule in my heart and I know who I am in You...one who has access to the throne itself.

And God Raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. - Eph. 2:6-7

Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.


Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jubilee Monday #20: Family Reunion

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

...each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

That's a family reunion, folks.

Every Christmas we go through a decision...do we make the drive to visit parents, or do we stay home?

The older I get, the more appeal staying home has.


We had a major family reunion this summer; it was great to see everyone.

Without going into a lot of detail, we already have one name who will not be at the next reunion. Someone from our generation...a shock.

You'd better believe we're glad we managed to get together.

A reunion every fifty years guarantees family connections will be made once in every generation.

And our decision to go to our parents every year it is possible guarantees at least a partial family reunion at least once a year. It's good to keep the connections as current as possible.

Because you never know.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Flashback #24 - Not the End

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Here's an entry from April 13,2005, when I was in a very discouraged spot:

I went to church hopeless, almost certain we'd missed God somewhere and were stuck in a huge mess.

IN the midst of worship -- from my will, rather than from my heart -- I suddenly thought of Hinds' Feet in High Places and the little scene in which Much-Afraid, sheltering in the cave on the last night of her journey and certain that all the Shepherd promised her was gone and empty, dumps her little bag of memorial stones, thinking they are not worth hauling around. Yet, as she looks at each one, she has to admit to herself that they are too precious to cast aside, even if it has all been a colossal waste. One by one, she picks the stones up, decides she cannot part with it and returns it to her bag - and picks up one more stone as a memorial. Of course, after her sacrifice, she is healed and restored and all the stones which she had almost discarded became jewels which the Shepherd set in her crown.

I realized the despair I felt was a close cousin to the despair Much-Afraid experienced -- and I remembered what happened after.

What looks like the end is not the end.

If you haven't read Hinds' Feet in High Places (by Hannah Hurnard) I highly recommend it...it's a fabulous allegory and has reminded me many times of the Shepherd's love and care and of the fact that I have to trust Him...and not be fooled by the way things appear.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study

The Chant

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The Expectant Season: A Blogged Bible Study

Lesson 3: The Chant

One of the few advent carols in the hymnal of the church in which I grew up is adapted from plainsong or gregorian chant, which, according to Wikipedia, is the oldest music known as it is the first repertory to have been adequately notated in the 10th century. The haunting minor melody, in the rise-and-fall cadence of the chant, has always evoked a contemplative mood. That it is still part of the Advent/Christmas tradition all these centuries later is testimony to the continuing pertinence of both the melody and the lyrics.

However, this truly is an Advent carol...not speaking of the coming of a baby at all, but of the coming of Messiah

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Of course, when this particular set of lyrics was written (the hymnal I have in front of me attributes the words to the Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum of 1710), Israel *was* in exile...there was no Jewish homeland. Now Israel is once again a nation, but it is pressured on every side and fights daily for its survival.

But this is not just a look for the Messiah to deliver Israel...

O come, thou Dayspring, Come and cheer
Our spirits by thine Advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high
And order all things far and nigh
To us the path of knowledge show
And cause us in her ways to go.

O Come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven's peace.

We all yearn for the day when 'deaths dark shadows' are put to flight, but...consider what the impact is of the coming of Messiah. If He orders all things far and nigh, that includes each of us. How willing are we to be ordered? Even by the Son of God? We forget the price of Christianity; it has become so easy to declare oneself a Christian and believe one fulfills one's duty to God simply by attending church services regularly but continuing to live our lives as we please, telling ourselves 'God understands.' But look at that third verse...we ask to be shown the paths of knowledge and then be 'caused' to go that way. That means we cannot plead ignorance of what God expects. Do we want God's Kingdom? Can we stand being one heart with all peoples? Lay down our individual rights? Because if Heaven's peace is going to reign, it's going to be according to Heaven's standards...not mankind's.

Yet it must be Heaven's peace that fills the world; history shows that mankind's peace lacks staying power.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:27, NIV

This Advent season I'm finding myself confronted over and over again with my own selfishness...not big, obvious, loud, demanding, overriding selfishness that makes others cringe, but the small, moment-to-moment selfishnesses that keep me from fully walking in Heaven's peace in my own heart. Things that grieve me at the end of the day because I frittered it away on insignificance.

So, in my own heart, my prayer is 'Oh come, Thou Wisdom from on high...order me inside and out, so that I walk in accordance with the knowledge You have already given me. Do not let me fail to do the good that I know to do.'

But the song reminds us with every chorus:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Because when He comes for Israel, He also comes for all who believe:
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 3:6, NIV

He does know my weaknesses, but He will give me knowledge that I do not have to be bound by my weaknesses forever. And, if I'm willing, He will cause me to walk in the way of knowledge...and that is the where His peace is found.

With all my heart, I want to be willing.


Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jubilee Monday #19: Firing Day

We finally got to Part 3 of the pottery making process...firing...this past Saturday.
I wrote about actually making the pots in Pottering Around back in October.

For some reason I didn't write about glazing the pieces, which is what we did in November's class. I guess I didn't really have too much to say about it...other than I learned it was easy to make a piece of pottery that was beyond my reasonable ability to glaze! The little flower bowl had teeniny spaces and curliques that I just couldn't get the available glazing brushes into. I had to just do the best I could...which included trying to drip the glaze into the little spots. I'm hoping I got it all covered, but after some discussion with the class leader, Mr. S., we decided that those little curly things would be better served by a higher-temp firing than what he does in his backyard. So that piece wasn't fired Saturday; it has been taken to another place to be high-fired and I will hopefully get it before the end of the month.

But my little braid bowl was glazed last month, and it was fired Saturday. The whole process fascinated me.
It was a very chilly day for North Alabama; I don't think the temperature got out of the 30's. I know the ice in puddles in the shady spots around where we were working didn't thaw! So we were bundled up, and one of the things Mr. S did was to put the glazed pieces on top of the kiln for a bit, rotating them around to pre-warm them before putting them into the firey furnace. Even though this was raku-firing and a lower temperature than food-use pottery is fired at, it was still unbelievably intense.
It was really neat to watch them through the little vent hole in the top of the kiln; the glaze would puff and bubble, then start running like caramel syrup. Once it began to run, then we pulled them out.

Mr. S wanted us to pull our own pieces; he actually gave me a bowl and the tongs to practice picking it up before he pulled the cover off the kiln for me to pull my bowl. The glaze is sticky and shouldn't be bumped against another piece or the side of the kiln when it's pulled out...sorta like the game 'Operation', if you ever played that as a kid (I don't think I did much...I hated that buzzer!)

Then, as soon as the piece comes out of the kiln, it is plunged into a container of combustible material...in this case, wood chips/sawdust. Of course, it flames up instantly, but what is desired is the smoke from that fire, so there's a lid placed over the container so that it smolders and smokes for a while.

I forgot to take a photo of what the bowl looked like when we pulled it out of the cinders of the sawdust. Not surprisingly, it was black, but not coal black...sort of an irridescent black, with some metallic shimmer in it. I thought that was what I would end up with, but after it cools enough to handle, the next and final step is to take it to a bucket of water and scrub it down. I thought I'd just clean some of the gunk off of it...I was astonished to see blue shimmer through.

Of course, now I can't remember just exactly what I did when I glazed it...I know I did an oxide wash on the braided part, so it would have a little more definition, and in my ignorance I got it too wet with that wash and I had trouble getting the glaze to stick properly. I think my original plan was to use a blue metallic glaze on the braid and a copper glaze on the bowl, but because I was having trouble with the glaze sticking I'm not sure what I ended up with. (The bright red bits are reflection of something off camera; and it really has more color than shows up here. A lot more. The sun was shining extra bright on the back porch, I guess.).

Raku is like that, though: even if you carefully document what is done, and dab the glaze on meticulously, it still has so many variables in the equation that it's impossible to tell what the final result will be.

I can find all kinds of spiritual parallels in this whole process and I think I'll sign up for another series of classes! This is fun!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Flashback #23: Then and Now

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Ok, this isn't a journal entry but indulge me ;)

The first picture is probably my favorite photo of the kids when they were young. I don't have a date for it, but based on the size of the Flute Player, who appears to be about 7 or 8 months old, I'd place it in February or March of 1997. Just one of those random days when I picked up the camera and took a picture.

We were in the process of trying to get family photos taken for our Christmas Letter this year and I just got a wild notion to repose the photo.

Wow. Time flies.... ;)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study

Look at that Rose

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The Expectant Season: A Blogged Bible Study

Actually, this is more like 'An Advent Reflection' than it is a 'Study', but, well, it's what seemed to work...

For several years (over 20?) one of the events of the season was a caroling party. My Sweet Baboo's family is *extremely* musically talented, and one couple among his folks best friends and their children were (ok, are...) also *extremely* musically talented. The year before MSB and I got married, my inlaws and this couple and their respective early adult kids decided to go Christmas caroling to some of their mutual friends. My Sweet Baboo, who became my Dear Fiance over that holiday, was the only offspring not there. As it happened, they had such a good time that they decided to do it again next year and it was a highlight of Our First Christmas Together...and an event that repeated itself until the logistics of collecting far-flung families with children became too complicated to work out.

But we all met at my DInlaw's house one night just before Christmas 1980 for a yummy meal, then carol books were pulled out, passed around and we divided ourselves into sections (let me think...there were 7 of us and 6 of them...13 people that year, I believe) to practice just a bit before we headed out in a borrowed church van.

I ran upstairs for something as they were completing the organization and as I returned they started singing the first carol:

Lo, how a Rose upspringing
On tender root has grown:
A Rose by prophet's singing
To all the world made known.
The Rose 'midst winter's cold,
A lonely blossom bearing,
In former days foretold.

I was struck dumb on the stairs. I was familiar with the carol; it happened to be in the hymnal of the church in which I grew up, but hearing my new family and their friends singing it a capella in four-part harmony in the living room literally took my breath away. It was beautiful. I'd always sort of liked it (it has a very nice alto part), but at that moment it jumped to one of my favorites and has stayed there ever since.

Not so much an Advent carol about expecting the Messiah, but certainly a song reflecting the prophetic groundwork laid for His coming.

This makes me think about all the prophecy in the Old Testament that proclaimed the coming of the Savior.

And about all the scholars of Scripture who missed it.

When the Magi showed up in Jerusalem, the scholars were able to tell them exactly where the Holy One would be born...but they didn't make the short journey to Bethlehem to see if what these foreigners were talking about had any merit.


Because they had it Figured Out. Reading the Scripture through their own experience and expectations, they were expecting Messiah to come...differently. Certainly not as a normal-looking baby born in a barn to poor parents. And certainly not without God telling *them* it had happened. A sign, there should be a sign! (That was what the Pharisees kept demanding from Jesus later..."Give us a sign!")

He told them exactly what the sign would be, but it wasn't the one they were looking for and they rejected him.

This tends to make me just a little pensive...

In what way have I got it 'Figured Out' how God will come and work in my life? What if He doesn't come as I expect, and do what I'm looking for? How will I deal with that?

Look at that Rose...it is not a triumphant king, not yet, but a thing of tenderness and purity. I can't remake Him to suit my expectations...I have to allow Him to remake me.


Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jubilee Monday #18: Girl Talk

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

While I'm not aware of any guys that stop by here, if someone of the male gender wanders in by accident, may I suggest skipping this entry? I'm pretty sure you won't relate.

Ok, to address the gorilla in the middle of the room...y'know, the Topic of Great Discussion amongst All Women in their Late Forties, which I am not going to spell out because I don't want to trip a bunch of internet searches from folks who are looking for other information, but you know what I mean.

The shutting down and mothballing of the whole hormonal assembly line that we women deal with for years and years and years...

And it *is* a Jubilee entry, because it comes part-and-parcel with the fiftieth year.

And, while I'm sure there are some wonderful and profound things I could write about, one not so wonderful thing is staring me in the face.

Suddenly I hate my bathroom scales. Now, I was sort of expecting a spike after Thanksgiving...but I didn't expect it to jump 5 pounds the month before we cut the turkey. Certainly not in two literal overnight steps of 3 and 2 pounds each.

Now I'm wondering if that sudden expansion has anything to do with the fact that I spent September and October flapping my tops to cool off. One power surge to the hour was the going rate for a while.

I'd gladly flap my collar if it meant those pounds would go back to wherever they came from.

This is just bad timing. If the scales jumped at any other time, I could do something about it. But going through the Christmas Party season (there are 2 this week already!) trying to lose weight is a sure fire way to have a *horrible* December. Walk past the plates of once-a-year goodies? Squeeze time in an already overcrowded month to exercise?

I'm afraid it's either that or I'm going to have to devise a new wardrobe for myself; even my fat clothes are snug now.

So, back to Jubilee. The fiftieth year. The year of restoration and renewal. I'm just going to have to do the best I can to be *moderate* and plan to work extra hard after the New Year and all its festivities go by. Eating what is provided is, after all, one of the injunctions of Jubilee.

And maybe I'll throw in a couple of extra trips up and down the stairs each day.

I'll give myself permission to enjoy the fellowship of friends and family, trusting God for provision...and trusting God to use that provision for health, not for, um, girth.

And trust Him that the elastic waists will make it until January. ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study

Prepare Ye

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

(My only blog post this week! Happy Thanksgiving!)

Prepare Ye the way of the Lord;
Prepare Ye the way of the Lord!

Stephen Schwartz begins the musical Godspell with those lyrics. That's the whole song; just those lines repeated several times.

And, although it isn't exactly an Advent carol, it is definitely a song of the season. It's taken from Isaiah chapter 40:

A voice of one calling in the desert:
'Prepare the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.' - Is. 40:3 NIV

I've mentioned before that Godspell has some personal significance for me. Among other things, it became the first announcement of the turning of the seasons toward the celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The small church we were in for years always sponsored a Fall Festival on Oct. 31, to give kids an alternative to trick-or-treating. Each Sunday School teacher was responsible to host a game of some sort in his/her classroom. I was the youth teacher, and year after year I'd go in, clear the room, tape clear-contact-paper covered numerically adorned cards to the floor in a circle, place a huge bowl of fun-size candy in the middle, plug up my cd player, and invite kids to walk the circle for a piece of candy (there was no charge, although we did use some tickets that had to be earned in another area to do minimal crowd control). For one ticket, anyone could come in and circle the numbers until I stopped the music. Then all the walkers stopped and I drew a number -- the person standing on that number got to choose a piece of candy from the bowl, and I started the music back up and began it again. It was a sure thing...but sometimes it took a while for someone to actually end up on the number that won. The kids enjoyed it, and I usually ended up listening to the cd about 3 times through in the evening.

I think the second year we did it I took in my Broadway cast recording of Godspell and enjoyed it so much that from then on that was the Candy Walk music. So now that music is permanently attached in my brain to fall and the shift from 'Fall thinking' to 'holiday thinking'. We're in a much larger church now and, while we still do a fall festival, it is completely different and there is no Candy Walk, so at some point I have to pull out the Godspell cd and listen to it in the sewing room, just to help my internal calendar recognize the season.

Which is really the purpose of Advent celebrations, anyway, right? To mark the changing season...to get ready for what's ahead. Prepare the way of the Lord; prepare our hearts to make room for Him, prepare our ears to hear Him, prepare our spirits to follow Him.

Perhaps the wilderness in which we are to make the highway straight is our own self-serving thought patterns...how much easier for us to respond to God when we are not caught in the midst of our own agenda.

It's interesting that 'Prepare Ye' does not only appear in the beginning of Godspell...it's also at the end. After the Resurrection, we hear once more:
Prepare Ye the way of the Lord,
Prepare Ye the way of the Lord!

Advent doesn't end with the birth of Christ; we are *still* preparing the way. With maturity, Advent becomes a daily discipline...daily preparing, daily listening, daily following. The point is not that we only prepare for the few weeks in front of Christmas...the weeks of Advent on the calendar are now a good time to evaluate and reflect: Am I really actively preparing the way...or am I subconsciously on auto pilot? What am I doing to prepare the way of the Lord in my daily life? How does my life reflect an expectation of the coming of Christ so that others can see that straight road?


The Expectant Season: A Blogged Bible Study

Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just thought I'd let everyone know that I'm planning to keep my internet time to an absolute minimum next week and spend the time preparing for and enjoying the Feast of Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite holidays...no pressure, just time with the kids doing traditional stuff. So, while I will post the first Advent Bible study on Tuesday, I will be pretty much off the 'net the rest of the week.

So I hope everyone takes time to reflect on our blessings and give credit for them where credit is due ;).

...All Good Gifts around us are sent from heaven above, so thank the Lord, Thank the Lord, for all His Love...I really wanna thank the Lord! -- Stephen Schwartz, Godspell

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Flashback #22 - No Fear

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I picked up one of the notebooks I'd used for journaling my way through some study books; I found this dated Feb. 2, 2006 as a preamble to that day's response:

Random thought on my way here:
We fear everything but God, who is all that we should fear: Having proper fear of God means that we should fear nothing and no one else.

I was reminded of the little study that I did on The 5 B's earlier this fall...how much of that seemed to deal with fear of God vs. just being afraid. Apparently, this is a lesson God has been trying to get through to me for a while now...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's in a Dream?

As I was thinking about dream hunting today, I realized I might be looking in the wrong places.

I was reminded (how? I don't know...it 'just' popped into my head) of a story I heard several years ago. I don't remember where I heard it or I'd credit the source, but it goes like this:

A gent was walking in a large city when he happened to come upon a construction site. He looked about but could find no indication of what was being built, so he decided to ask one of the workers. He saw a chap carrying bricks and approached him.

"Excuse me just a moment," he asked. "Would you mind explaining what you're doing here?" he queried as he waved his hand about the site.

But the guy carrying the bricks was in no mood for conversation. "Can't you see that I'm carrying bricks?" he shot back. "And I get paid by the load, so I can't talk!"

And off he went.

So the curious gentleman looked around and saw another fellow carrying bricks, so he thought he'd try again.

"Excuse me, please!" he said. "Would you be so kind as to tell me what you're doing here?"

This fellow was very willing to talk, "Of course! I am building that wall right there! I am the best wall-builder in the city, and I am building that wall to last! Yessir, years and years from now, people will see my wall and know what a master craftsman I am...you see how perfectly the bricks are aligned..."

Our friend edged away ever so slightly and left the wall-builder rhapsodizing over his wall, still unenlightened as to the purpose of the construction.

Finally, he spotted a third guy carrying bricks. This fellow was whistling and moving with a jaunty step, so he thought perhaps he'd give him an answer.

"Excuse me just a moment, if you don't mind" he said to the whistling brick toter, "But could you tell me what you're doing here?"

The guy stopped whistling,set down the bricks and grinned from ear to ear as he waved his arm wide. "Oh, I'm building a cathedral! A place for people to come and worship God for years and years! It's going to be marvelous!"

The gentleman was amazed at the fellow's enthusiasm for his project. "How long will it be before it is finished?" he inquired.

The guy winked at him as he picked his load back up. "Oh, it won't be finished in my lifetime," he said, "But I get to be a part of it, and it couldn't be finished if I didn't do my bit!" He nodded at the gentleman and moved off.

The gentleman looked about him. Yes, he could see how the construction at that point could eventually be a great cathedral. As he headed back to the road, he was sad that he wouldn't see it finished, but knew he would tell his grandchildren about seeing it in its early stages.

Three guys, all doing the same thing. But one of them saw it as a dream.

Maybe I need to see what dreams I really am living....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Expectant Season: An Advent Study Introduction

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Y'know, sometimes you have to move, even if you don't know which way you'll turn or where you'll end up. One step at a time. Listening.

This is one of those times. I have the barest idea of a framework upon which to hang an Advent study: I'm going to use music...songs/carols that are Advent-minded.

But that's all I know.

So, in the spirit of taking the first step on a journey for which I have only the vaguest notions of directions, I'm posting a syllabus.

This should be interesting.


Introduction: Nov. 18

Lesson 1: Nov. 25 Prepare Ye

Lesson 2: Dec. 2 Look at that Rose

Lesson 3: Dec. 9 The Chant

Lesson 4: Dec. 16 We've Been Waiting....

We'll be off for the week of Christmas, so to get four lessons in (which is the Traditional Advent thing, right?) I'll post the first lesson next week, even though I will otherwise be on a blogging/internet break.

I'm intrigued with this; expectant and just a little intimidated.

Which is a good attitude to have for Advent, don't you think?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jubilee Monday #17: Goin' Huntin'

Pastor's sermon yesterday mentioned dreams that had died; dreams that have been given up on; dreams that were set aside as ridiculously unattainable.

He challenged us to believe God for those dreams.

It's great, only...

I've come to the conclusion that I didn't really have any dreams of destiny. Nothing that I felt God had spoken to my spirit as a direction or a vision for my life. I've been trying to figure out why.

I think it may be that I never dared to allow myself to dream. I don't know why that started, but I do know that I had very low expectations even when I was a child.

I remember one Christmas Eve when I was no more than 5 or 6. We came home from my Grandmother's and, for who knows what reason, the little black and white TV got turned on. There was a basketball game on, and dark uniforms and white uniforms were all I could tell about the two teams that played. For some reason, I decided I wanted one of those teams to win. I can't remember which one at this point, but I *do* remember thinking that I had to pretend, even in my thoughts, that I wanted the *other* team to win, because if "They" knew which team I wanted, "They" would see to it that the other team won.

I basically grew up denying wishes because I felt that to admit them would jinx them and I'd never see it.

Where did that come from? I have absolutely no idea.

Oh, there have been things that I dared to hope for...things like marrying my husband, having kids, etc.,...that came to pass. But somehow I've never shaken that feeling that wanting something was a sure way not to get it.

So I suppose it's no wonder that I don't have any big life dreams.

I think that, in a Jubilee year, it's time to get rid of that old junky stuff. It doesn't have any foundation in reality anyway; I don't know why it has kept me under such a rock all this time.

But it does mean that I have to learn to dare to dream. Be vulnerable.

That's risky.

But, 'without a vision, the people perish'...without a dream, the spirit shrivels. I don't want that.

So, now I need to go do some dream hunting ;)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Flashback #21: The Diary

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

This is a bit of a fudge; I didn't put this in a journal, but I found a journal entry dated Nov. 11, 1995 stating that I'd written the first draft of this earlier in the day. It's something...different...so I can't do the usual 'italicize the whole thing' format; it has italics in it for a purpose.

Once I adapted this to a monologue and performed it in costume...that was interesting...

I never really named it; but here it is:

Dear CJ,
We found the following diary or journal on the third week of the dig. Bronswell and I both believe it to be significant, if not authentic. It was inscribed on clay tablets, with bits of decomposed papyri lying about that it seems to have been copied from, or perhaps was being copied to. The translation was done by Tim Norbert—he said he made an idiomatic translation rather than word-for-word, to try and catch the flavor of the manuscript; I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Read it over and let me know what you think.
Yours, Bettina

2 Ziv -- J. conducting business with Bildad. Last of the sacrificial sheep slaughtered; J. to go day after tomorrow to select next batch. Bebai very excited to have permission to join his siblings in Adin’s feast tomorrow. Have been invited, but J. needs to finish business and I have beginnings of a head cold and need to see to the bread baking. Think we’ll stay home. Weather hot for this time of year.

3 Ziv -- O horrible day! Such a day should not be! Must make the effort to tell this; no one will believe the catastrophes that have befallen us today...Saw Bebai safely off with Uthai to Adin’s and began baking bread. After noon meal, Bildad and J. completed business and B. left, then the news began. First, it was Shimei, terrified and bleeding, who burst into the house and announced that the Sabeans had attacked while they were doing the plowing and had stolen all the oxen and the donkeys grazing in the next field. His coworkers were slaughtered. He was wounded but managed to come home to tell the news. Just as he was saying, “I alone have escaped” -- unbelievably, we would hear those same words three more times -- Ahimaz came in crying “Master! Master!” He was near hysterics and it was all we could do to calm him enough to hear his tale. He said that fire of God (I have never heard of such a thing) fell from heaven on the pasture where the sheep were grazing, and the sheep and the rest of the shepherds perished. “I alone have escaped” he said with a sob, but before the words were out of his mouth, Jalam staggered into the room bleeding even worse than Shimei and fell on the ground. At length he managed to tell us that three bands of Chaldeans had attacked the camel caravans and slaughtered all the servants and stolen the camels and the goods they were carrying. As he was gasping “I alone have escaped,” Elizear came in with his garments torn and ashes on his head, grieving, with the worst news of all. “Oh, my Master and Mistress! Great distress has fallen upon your house! As your children were all feasting with Adin, an incredible wind blew hard and,” he gulped here and began to weep anew, “ The house fell with all the children inside. I was in the yard, and I saw it all. Everyone died. I alone have escaped.” Then he wailed, “Oh, my Master and Mistress! It is an evil day!” J. and I sat still for a time as he wailed, then J. stood up, tore his robe and fell face down on the ground. He was weeping as he said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I go out of the world. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away -- blessed be the name of the Lord!” I have wept and wailed all day, but it will not bring my children back to me. I don’t understand why God should decide to destroy all we have or hold dear. J. is no help. He shakes his head when I ask him “Why?” and says we should be grateful for what we have had and enjoyed. He has gone with half of the household servants to excavate Adin’s house to collect the bodies -- Ah, God, my children! -- so that we may have a proper burial for them. Ahimaz has taken the rest of the servants to bury what bodies of the servants they can find; I have been tending Shimei and Jalam; S. will probably mend well enough, I’m not so sure about Jalam. Not one of our neighbors has come to sit and grieve with us.

4 Ziv--The men worked by torchlight last night and managed to recover all of the bodies of the children. I worked today to wrap them with the burial spices. A more horrible thing I have never had to do. They were all so mangled and broken. The maids helped, or I could not have done it. None of the neighbors have come by. Zilpha says that the gossip at the well is that we are under a curse and they are all afraid of angering God by showing mercy to a house he has condemned. Angering God! If anything we have done has angered God, then all of humanity should have been wiped from the face of the earth long ago. I know my husband and my children -- there is nothing that should have resulted in this kind of judgment. I would like to know why. Just one question -- WHY??? We lay the children in the burial tomb tomorrow. May God give us strength to do it, especially as he has left us with little else. Shimei some better today, Jalam feverish.

5 Ziv--J. and I and the servants laid the children in the tomb; the professional mourners would not even come to our aid. Even two of the house servants begged to be released today for fear the curse will extend to them. J. says that we are nearly penniless now and may have to sell some of the ground to get ourselves back on our feet and pay the creditors for the goods the camels were carrying, along with the wages for the hired servants. I do not feel we need so many servants with so little to care for, but perhaps he is right. He says there is still more to life ahead of us and that God is faithful and we will be restored. I do not know why God would strike such a blow if he intended to restore it all to us. I cannot conceive of going on with life as it is. What is there to live for? Our friends have abandoned us, the servants are nervous and the God we have served so faithfully has proven himself either unfaithful or uninterested. The children are all gone...why bother? I fear Jalam dying as well.

(here a piece of the tablet was broken and some of the words are missing)

...at noon today. We wrapped him in the cloths and gave him to his people, who hissed at us. I wept after they left, but J. scolded me and said we should be willing to let God have that which he had only lent to us. What glory does his God get if we are bereft of everything and our name is only a hissing in the street? J. went to the city gate to sell a piece of ground, but no one would buy it, calling it cursed. We have had to dismiss as many of the servants as could find a place to go, which was nearly all of them. Only old Ammihud and his wife Keturah are left to us. J. has no animals from which to choose a sacrifice, but he had the weekly worship today anyway, calling on God and thanking him for his blessings to us. I left. If we have had God’s blessing, I think I would rather be cursed.

9 Ziv--Oh, God, what has your servant done that you inflict him so? J. began to break out in boils today and the townspeople drove him out, saying he would bring calamity on them as well. He has gone out to the garbage pile to sit and mourn, scraping the boils when they pain him too much. I went to the well for water today and was nearly driven off. I have decided to go at an odd hour from now on. I sit and weep for hours at a time. Only Keturah speaks to me with any sympathy. It’s as if we were suddenly a household of lepers. I see no future for us.
What shall I do if he dies? Oh, that I could die myself and be done with it! Life is evil, evil!

10 Ziv--This is a living nightmare. I took some pottage to J. at the garbage pile; he is boils from head to toe and looks absolutely miserable. His face is swollen and he is scarcely recognizable. It broke my heart to see him so, and I couldn’t believe his God is allowing such a faithful servant to suffer so. “Why?” I said, “Why? Why? Why?” J. said God must have his reasons, which made me absolutely furious. There just can be no reason for this.
“How can you say that?” I demanded, “Where has it gotten you? Sitting in a dung heap covered with boils! Curse God and die! Give it up! Then I can lie down and die, too, and be done with this whole mess.” I don’t remember what else I said, but J. got really angry with me. “Watch your tongue, woman!” he scolded, “You’re talking like an idiotic pagan woman. Listen to me...we will not accept just good from God, but also whatever adversity he sends our way. Do you understand me?” I think his illness must have addled his brain. I wish I understood why all of this is happening...

11 Ziv--J. even worse than yesterday; blisters in his mouth making it difficult to eat. What is the use of anything?

12 Ziv--Weather turning very hot and humid. J. still miserable.

13 Ziv--Hot. Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar came from their cities, having just heard of our misfortune. They brought Elihu with them and have all joined J. at the garbage heap, weeping and wailing and throwing dust on themselves. At least someone cares enough about us to come and mourn.

14 Ziv--Still hot. Bildad and friends still with J., nobody is speaking...or eating much, either. I’ve made two trips to the well today; I think they will need plenty of water, sitting out in the sun like that. It’s such a difference from the hospitality we offered them the last time any of them were here.

15 Ziv--Heat merciless. No change in anything.

16 Ziv--No relief in (it looks like water has been dripping on the tablet; the rest of the words on this tablet are obliterated)

19 Ziv--There must be some break in the weather soon. Thunderheads have sprung up around us again today, but there has been no rain. The men at the garbage pile are nearly ill from the heat. Still, no one is speaking. I wonder how much longer this is going to last...

20 Ziv--Well, the silence is broken. When I took the men their water at noon, they were engaged in a heated discussion. Seems they are trying to convince J. to confess the secret sin he must have hidden from everyone but God. So they, too, think that all this has been some sort of deserved punishment. Even now, I can hear them all yelling at each other out there. Thunder still in the distance; heat still oppressive.

21 Ziv--Incredible things happened today. Began with continued heat. Elihu was speaking when I took the water at midmorning; shortly after noon, a tremendous storm broke. Neither I nor the servants have ever seen anything like it. It went on forever with thunder that seemed about to shake the house apart. We cowered in a corner and wondered how the men at the garbage heap were withstanding the storm. To our surprise, after the storm they all came in smiling and amazed. They said God had spoken out of a whirlwind of the storm and said that Job had done what was right, and had commanded the others to bring him seven bulls and seven rams so that J. could make sacrifices and pray for them. Job washed himself -- the boils are much better -- while the others went to the town to buy animals for sacrifice. Just before evening Job called us all out for the sacrifices and we had quite a worship service. People from the town came out and sat with us: at least the testimony of Job’s friends seems to have put us back in favor with the townsfolk. While the sacrifices were being made, all of J.’s brothers and sisters arrived, bringing bread and other food. We had a feast of sorts with all the guests, and everyone mourned with us and consoled us for the evil things that had happened. Then, when everyone left, each household left us a gold ring and a piece of silver. Job retired this evening making plans of how to invest the small fortune we now have. I do not claim to understand God, but it looks like things are turning around. I don’t think I will ever again take my blessings for granted.

(Here the clay tablets end…the remaining fragments were too fine to reassemble.. However, according to Job 42:12, we must suppose that Job did quite well investing his ‘small fortune.’)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Liturgical Learning

This started as a reply to Alana's comment on yesterday's post that just got too long for the comment box...

I spent most of my life as a Baptist, of one flavor or another, so the liturgical calendar was never part of my tradition. My Sweet Baboo grew up Methodist, with a fairly significant connection to the liturgical calendar; we collided on our first New Year's Day together when I began to dismantle the Christmas tree to the accompaniment of the Tournament of Roses parade, as my mother always did.

'What are you doing?' he inquired, just a little shocked.

'Well, I'm taking the tree down,' I replied in that 'isn't-it-obvious?' tone of voice.

'But it's still Christmas!' he protested.

'Huh?' I replied, wondering what he was talking about.

He explained to me the liturgical calendar that included the 12 days of Christmas...something I thought was just a counting song...and the significance of Epiphany.

And I realized he was right...it was still Christmas. Now, unless there is a compelling reason otherwise, the tree stays up until Jan. 6.

But my real education on the liturgical calendar came from one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle. It's one of her Crosswicks Journals, The Irrational Season. I didn't realize Advent was an eschatological season until I read that book, but it makes sense...preparing for the observation of Christ's first advent should make us more keenly aware of preparing for His return.

Anyway, I've kind of grown nostalgic for a tradition that didn't include all the Christmas broo-ha during what should be the Advent season...and now, even threatens to eclipse Thanksgiving.

What would it be like to celebrate Thanksgiving, then the Advent Season, then a worship experience to celebrate God becoming man and 12 days of feasting and enjoying friends, capped by a (simple) gift exchange on Epiphany?

It'd sure be different....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Advent musings

Ok, I've thought and prayed and read and looked for A Word From God about the next blogged Bible study and the only thing I'm hearing in my spirit is 'Advent'.

So, I guess I'm going to go way outside my beaten path and do some studies about Advent for the next few weeks. I'll have to work up a syllabus...I'm not even sure where I'm supposed to go with it, so it'll be a challenge to even get the syllabus down.

But that means it's going to be something different and new for me, too...in the 5 B's study, I at least had a syllabus provided for me. This one is going to be on my own.

But, kind of as a prep for that, I thought I'd post something about Real Life in Advent in America.

Other countries have Advent traditions; the American Advent Tradition is, I'm rather ashamed to say, the Christmas Wish List.

Christmas shopping, Sales, buying, what-do-you-want-this-year. I don't know how we got on this treadmill, but somehow the joy of the wise men and their gifts seems to be lost.

So, when our kids were young, we came up with a way to stem the tide a bit. Each child got 5 gifts:

Something to read
Something to wear
Something to play with alone (a toy)
Something to play with with others (a game)
A craft or hobby item.

Some years we combined gifts for larger ticket items...the American Flyer trains that My Sweet Baboo restored for the boys as they were old enough, for instance, counted as both the toy and the hobby items that year.

It made shopping much simpler. We knew when we were done, and everyone had roughly the same value in gifts.

A friend said they did something similar, only they limited it to three gifts, because that was what the Magi brought to Jesus. Basically, they did what we did without the clothes and the books. That may be what we shift to once we become parents of adults/grandparents...or, we may just decide 'one fun gift, one practical gift'. Or maybe we'll just fill stockings for everyone.

We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

First, I need to focus on this Advent season. I'm actually late starting my shopping/crafting this year; not sure why, but that's the truth.

So an Advent Bible study will be a Good Thing...it will help keep me focused on what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown: The coming of the Savior.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jubilee Monday #16 - A Personal Treat

When I was a 16 year-old high school junior, I went with a group of friends to Clowes Hall in Indianapolis and saw a professional troupe perform Stephen Schwartz's musical Godspell. It had a profound effect on me; I think I embarrassed the guys I was sitting next to by bawling uncontrollably, but I had been expecting something kind of sacrilegious and wasn't prepared for what I saw. I only went because my BFF insisted...and I'm glad she did.

I've seen it every chance I've gotten since then. "By My Side" was one of the musical selections at our wedding. When we were in our little denominational church, the Broadway cast recording was the music I played every Halloween night for the candy walk game at our fall festival.

This year, the piece that The Actor's school (he's not involved, though...it's the choral magnet this year) is doing for the one-act competition is a 45-minute cutting of Godspell, and the kids have done it very well. The district level competition was this past weekend, and, not only did they qualify to move to the state level, the young man that portrayed Jesus was selected as the best actor from the district for his performance.

For me, it was a real back-to-my-youth Jubilee treat, and an incredible blessing to see the kids onstage singing praise. I've had 'All Good Gifts' in my head for the past three days...

What gifts have we to offer
For all Thy love imparts
But that which Thou desirest
Our humble, thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent by heaven above
Then thank the Lord,
Thank the Lord,
For all His Love

I really wanna thank the Lord...

-Stephen Schwartz

ETA: The Actor told me after school Monday that the young man who sang 'All Good Gifts' won Best Supporting Actor for the district, too. Not a surprise...his rendition was amazing and earned cheers from the audience. He was radiant as he sang that song...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Flashback #20 - Must...Learn...the...Lesson...

The Flute Player had a huge Social Studies project on the election assigned to her; she somehow thought it was due on Monday, but came home yesterday and announced that it was due today.

And, despite my constant nagging consistent encouragement for the past two weeks, she had almost nothing done on it. I sat up with her until 1 AM while she worked, and she got up at 5:45 to work. It's finished, but if she makes better than a C- on it it will be a wonder. It's gonna hurt her grade; obviously rushed and minimally completed.

So, yeah, I'm tired and cranky and gave her the 'When will you learn this lesson!' lecture on the way to school (it's raining, so I took her instead of sending her on her bike).

Then I came home and began looking for a journal entry to use for today's flashback. And, to my chagrin, here's what I came across, dated March 7, 2003:

[While] skim reviewing chapters I'd already read in Dialogue With God, I encountered the following statement/question that I'd both highlighted and starred:

'Could I actually come to a place where I did nothing on my own initiative; where I only spoke the words I heard the Father speaking within; where I only did those things I saw the Father doing?'

Wow...that would really be the cry of my heart: but that means walking in such intimate communion with God that I heard and saw Him on a continual basis -- not just every once in a while, and not only when I'm on my face with the world shut out. It means looking at a situation unfolding before me and knowing what God was saying about it/doing in it and speaking and acting accordingly.

It is possible for humans to live in such a place: Paul and Peter both did. There are others in history who did;
[I believe] there are people today who do.

Teach me, Lord, to pursue you with a passion until I reach that spot and keep pursing with a passion to stay there.

Sigh. That was over 5 years ago...and I can't honestly say that I'm closer to that passionate, constant pursuit, let alone the discernment of what God is saying and doing around me, than I was when I wrote it.

I am like my daughter; putting it off just a little each day and not learning the lesson of what such procrastination costs. Not that I have to legalistically spend hours in prayer...but, when I hear Him call my name to come aside, I need to respond immediately instead of 'yeah...in a minute...just let me finish (whatever)'.

When I learn that lesson, I'll be on the threshold of a whole new level of intimacy with Him...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Couldn't 'a' Said It Better Myself....

Y'all (ok, I'm letting my southern environment influence me just a little there. But sometimes 'y'all' works much better than the Midwestern 'Hey, you guys'... Work with me), there are some awesome women of God in the blogsphere. These ladies have voiced what I think about the week's events much better than I could. If you haven't read them yet...check them out:

Sarah at The Cleft of the Rock challenges believers to rise up to what could be our finest hour.

Lysa (a new way to spell it!) TerKeurst at Proverbs 31 Ministries issues a call to believers to really walk the talk.

Beth Moore at Living Proof Ministries invites us to join her in unified prayer and refuse to give the enemy any ground.

They are all challenging and encouraging posts. It ain't over, folks...there is still much for believers to do. This is, as Beth points out, our watch. There's too much at stake to pout.

I know I have prayed more aggressively for our country this week than I ever had before; perhaps to my shame...I should've been doing it all along.

I need to just keep it up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday Morning

Several years ago, I taught a Bible study for a faith-based program that mentors economically disadvantaged women. The program works to help them get their GED, learn working skills and improve their wage-earning capability as well as giving them a life mentor to work with them for one year after completing the 12-week course. It's an incredible program...lives are changed. (And why am I reading so many opinions that the conservative evangelic church is not doing anything to help underpriviledged folks? Do the people with those opinions honestly think there is nothing being done?)

But, in teaching a lesson on God's authority, I happened to mention the election of 2000. One young lady in the class bristled immediately, "That election was STOLEN!!" She got very angry, then put her head down on the table for the rest of the class.

After that, she either skipped Bible study or put her coat over her head while I taught.

I felt like I'd stepped into a hole that I didn't know was there. It jarred me; my offhand assumption that anyone who followed Jesus would hold the same opinion I did was thoroughly overthrown that day.

Or so I thought.

Now, I'm finding myself with my foot in that same hole. I'm reading opinions of others... news writers as well as bloggers whose writing and/or creativity has inspired me, some with whom I have corresponded and consider friends...that toss convictions of my heart around as frivolous, self-centered, short sighted, ignorant, legalistic religious extremism.

I wish I could say I was mature enough not to let it bother me, but I can't. I'm not there yet. It hurts.

God's authority is as much in place today as it was in 2000. God has a purpose. I trust Him.

But I've got much praying to do...not just for my country, but for myself. That I will be one who responds correctly. I want to never again cause someone to put their head down and refuse to hear the Word.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Everyone Counts

I know this is supposed to be Bible Study day, but what is happening in the country much outweighs anything I could say here.

It's a day of fasting and praying at our house.

vote-pray-trust God.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Jubilee Monday #15 - Gettin' Connected

One of my impressions of Jubilee is that, since everyone is to return to their ancestral land, they reconnect with people...family.

I've been trying to analyze why, in the midst of my determination to be more disciplined in my life, I added a new potential distraction...I signed up for Facebook.

I've come to the conclusion that really was a Jubilee thing. For lots of reasons, I often feel isolated from folks. Not going into that here...it'd take way too long...but I found out that there really is a connection going on at Facebook. Many of my church friends are on it and, although I initially signed up thinking I could reconnect with folks from the ancient past (that would be high school), I've found it's going to be a great way to be connected to the folks from my present...my church family.

We're all so busy that we don't have time to talk in person...but it's cool to see the little comments about what folks are doing as they go through the day.

The trick is, of course, to not let it consume huge amounts of time. I dismissed ideas of joining an online group like Facebook for a long time for just that reason. But we need connection to people as much as we need food, water and air. I think that's a question of balance.

Which is, of course, personal discipline. Back to that one.

Time to set the timer and work on that. ;)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Flashback #19 - Who does the bells?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

This is from August 20, 1998, when the Flute Player was just a fuzz over two years old:

[The Flute Player] has bells on her shoes; not only to let me know where she is but to keep her shoes tied. But she's just at that age where she wants to do things herself, so what frequently happens is that I will tie her shoe in a nice bow, but [she] will insist on trying to put the bells on herself.

Well, the first thing she does is grab the bow and pull it -- untying what I'd already done for her. She tries to stuff the lace into the bell cap and there's nothing I can do until she gets frustrated with her own efforts and lets me do it for her.

Is this a parallel or what? I think the thing that really hit me is that when she tried to finish the job herself, she messed up what had already been done for her....

That's a lesson I need to remember today...and the verse that goes with it is obviously Galatians 3:3 - Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Which is another reminder to wait on Him...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Know Your Enemy

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood -- contending only with physical opponents -- but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. -- Eph. 6:12, AMP

I think, as we are praying for the upcoming election, we need to be very careful that we don't focus on a person or group of people as being the opposition...we need to recognize that this is a spiritual battle, first and foremost.

I've received numerous emails, read several blogs naming names of candidates to pray against (and, being a reader of varied interests, I've seen arguments both ways).

Perhaps, instead of praying for or against specific people, we should address our warfare against the real enemies...those master spirits who are in charge of this present darkness.

Regardless of who our next president is, God is still on his throne.

My Scripture reading earlier this week had me in the end of 2 Kings, and I found an interesting situation. Hezekiah was king, and he was a righteous king; There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses. -- 2 Kings 18: 5b-6 But Hezekiah got sick, and was told to put his house in order because he was going to die. Hezekiah mourned, and God not only healed him but gave him a miraculous sign that he would be healed.

Hezekiah lived 15 more years. During those 15 years, he gave a group of ambassadors visiting from a little kingdom north of them the grand tour of the palace and all the treasuries and he fathered a son.

The ambassadors were from Bablyon, who later invaded, conqured and carried Judah away into captivity, and the son was Manasseh, who became king at age 12 and did more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and...led Judah into sin with his idols -- 2 Kings 21:11.

Were Hezekiah's extra years a blessing or a curse? As Aslan says, 'No one is ever told what would have happened.'

What looks reasonable to us may not be in the long run. What makes the most sense to me may not be what God has in mind, because of His long-range plan.

I simply can't tell what God will do with this situation. But I trust Him.

So...my prayer is not that Candidate A or B will win; my prayer is that God's choice will occupy the White House. I will vote according to my convictions, but those are based on incomplete knowledge... because even the best human knowledge is incomplete.

And in the meantime, my prayer is to bind spirits of dissention, deception, strife, jealousy, selfishness, bigotry, fear and hatred.

There is more to Manasseh's story...the rest is in 2 Chronicles 33. The Assyrian army captured Manasseh, put a hook in his nose and took him captive to Babylon, where in his distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God. (vs. 12 - 13).

Upon his return, Manasseh set about righting his wrongs. He fortified the city, got rid of foreign gods and idols, restored the LORD's altar and sacrificed offerings.

Manasseh's grandson Josiah was the greatest reformer king Judah ever had.

We can't tell from the beginning what the end will be. We can't tell from the middle what the end will be. So pray against the spirits and powers of darkness, vote, and trust God.

Because He is trustworthy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"If My People...."

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
We go to the polls a week from today in what may very well be the largest voter turnout in history to elect our next president. I'm not going to stump for one or the other here, but there is something every one of us should be doing, regardless of for whom we plan to vote on November 4.

We should be praying for our country like we have never prayed before. It's a pivotal time, in the midst of more than one global crisis.

The verse that just keeps ringing in my spirit is 2 Chronicles 7:14:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (NIV)

Surely I am not the only person who has noticed who are being called to humble themselves and seek God and repent...those called by His name.

Not the folks with the humanistic world view. Not the people pushing agendas contrary to what the Word teaches. Not the folks living with no fear of God in their lifestyles. Not the celebrities who declare their anti-God opinions in a public forum. Not even the people who are ranting about one political candidate or another.

The people who are called to humility and repentance are God's people. Those who are known by His name...and remember, it wasn't the early Christians who called themselves that name; it was the unbelievers in Antioch. And it was meant as a term of derision. Probably the closest equivalent of what that entailed today would be 'Jesus Freak'.

It's me. And, if you are one called by His name, it's you.

If we wring our hands, wanting folks who are living with ungodly agendas to repent to save the nation, we have missed it. If we pray that God will turn the hearts of those folks to him, we're closer, but we've still missed it.

We've got to make it just 'Between God and me'.

What good thing have I neglected to do? Where have I wandered from His guidance to my own agenda? Where have I deceived myself into thinking something is ok, when I really know it quenches and grieves the Spirit in me at the very least, or blatantly breaks a commandment at the worst?

All of those are 'wicked ways'...whenever I serve self over God, I'm guilty. And I need to repent.

If all those across our nation who follow Christ would do such self examination, what would God do?

...hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land...

It's not up to non-Christian folks to make a difference; it's up to us.

It's time to pray.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jubilee Monday #14 - back to basics

I don't know how things were for you last week, but for me, time had wings.

It really is good for me to stay off the 'net (pretty much...I still checked my email and the weather forecast) on a regularly scheduled basis, as much to put things into perspective as to have some extra time to catch up on things.

I spent some time just thinking. Thinking about what I really wanted my days to look like, and how that should happen. Thinking about changes we need to do to the house (We moved in 3 years ago but have not really changed anything since)...things *I* want to do to the house to make it reflect who we are and pondering what the first steps in that direction should be.

And I wrote down some potential routines and found the paint scraper.

But mostly I reconsidered who I really am. I'd been doing so much work as a volunteer that things around the house really, really fell behind. Not that I caught everything up...it's been too long neglected...but I caught a vision of how it *could* be.

And I realized we'd been living a two-income-lifestyle (harried, hurried, driving around daily eating carry out or processed quick fix food) on a one-income, um, income. Something's gotta change.

I need to be a home maker -- not a Stay At Home Mom. Funny how the title matters.

I was really surprised by that revelation, because (true confession time) I've always sort of subconsciously resented having to be the one to do all the housework, even while I was helping out in other places and gone so much. Oh, I could get some help now and again, but it always falls back on Mom.

This past stay-home week finally began to break through that. Maybe it's the economic anxiety that's all around; I can see where staying home and really managing the household could be a profitable thing to us as a family, instead of just the drudge work no one else wants to do.

I used to do that, when the older kids were small. I cut coupons and made menus and cooked from scratch...and still managed to teach Sunday School and Youth Group and sew clothes for me and the kids. Didn't manage the clean house most of the time, and I would get up at 5 AM to go to the grocery store and back before My Sweet Baboo left to go to work, but, somehow...I don't remember feeling as knotted up as I have felt at times lately.

As I commented to My Sweet Baboo, I feel like something in me began to unwind a little last week, and it felt good.

So I don't want to jump back into the craziness; somehow, I've got to hold things lightly and not get so overbooked.

It is Jubilee year...it should be the year of opening and unwinding and holding things lightly.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Flashback Friday #18: Seed Dies

I didn't pull out any old journals today; I just thumbed back in the one I'm currently writing in (and this will show you how erratic my journal-writing really is; this entry is two years old but it is from the current volume!). It's dated October 29,2006, and is about a revelation that hit when I was working behind the scenes at church...instead of being in the service with a special guest speaker, listening and being blessed. I'll admit I had just a little pouty attitude about it, but this changed my viewpoint:

I saw something about seed in it -- about sowing grain that would otherwise nourish and feed me. The difference may not be great, but I saw a new aspect of sowing - of deliberately placing food into the ground, rendering it unusable for nourishment. All the folks who work so tirelessly during service -- the nursery workers, the Missionette and Ranger leaders, the Children's Church workers -- they all choose to sow that which feeds them in order to see a harvest.

If you eat your seed, you'll never see a harvest. But, if you sow your lunch -- hm, maybe you'll feed 5,000?

A Postscript: Tonight is the Mpact Girls' Annual Sleepover; I'm on the 'stay awake all night and monitor things' crew, so I'm not likely to be in any shape to post anything tomorrow! And next Monday is the beginning of my 'Regularly Scheduled Quarterly Stay Home and Off of The Internet Catch Up Week' So, unless I just feel an extraordinary unction to post something over the weekend, I'll see you on the 27th!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Encouraging Word

I don't know why...but it seems like every time I open up my freebie email account I see some news blurb on that home page that just makes me want to cringe. I think they put the worst of the worst doom-and-gloom headlines up. So, I thought for my 'Tuesday Something Bible-Study Related' post, I'd just post some things that would be Good To Remember Right About Now:

Prosperous Plans Made - "I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jer. 28:11

Positive Response to Request - "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." - Jer. 33:3

Trust Brings Peace - "Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." -- Ps. 37:3-6

And my favorite; I like to read this one out loud, slowly, with emphasis, when I'm feeling nervous about things I have no control over:

How to Live in the Place of Security --
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD,
"He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
And from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
And under his wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
Nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
Ten thousand at your right hand,
But it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
And see the punishment of the wicked.

If you make the Most High your dwelling --
Even the LORD, who is my refuge --
Then no harm will befall you,
No disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
To guard you in all your ways;
They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
You will trample the great lion and the serpent.

'Because he loves me,' says the LORD,
'I will rescue him;
I will protect him,
For he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
And show him my salvation.'

-- Ps. 91

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jubilee Monday #13: Pottering Around

One of the aspects of Jubilee that I've mentioned is going back to dreams...this was one of those 'Things I've Always Wanted to Try'.

Saturday morning, I got up and made a drive from the south side of the Rocket City north to just over the Tennessee border, to the home of Mr S., the pottery artist who attends our church and who has been coaching the Flute Player in beginning pottery during our Night of Worship services. He has a 'Life Interest Group' (which is technically what my sewing group is, too) for folks interested in pottery that meets once a month, and the Flute Player wanted to do it, so I signed up, too. She was on her way back from visiting her grandparents on Saturday, this month's meeting date, but I went ahead without her.

Gave me a chance to try it without being outdone by my own kid. :)

Anyway, it was really fun. Since there were three of us who'd never done any clay work before, we began with a quick demo by Mr. S.

He began by slicing a slab of clay off the block, then throwing it onto his work bench several times to thin and stretch it.

He pressed slices off that flattened piece into a mold and dried it just a bit w/a hair dryer. Then he popped the bowl out of the mold and showed us how to build up the rim and add our own design interest. Here, he demonstrates inserting a design feature into a bowl:

Then it was our turn to try. He threw one slab a little for me and I *tried* to throw it the last couple of times...um, that's definitely a trick I'll have to practice! I ended up using a rolling pin to flatten out the folds I put in my slab...

I looked over the molds that were available. I wanted something kinda graceful, and I picked a mold that I later found out was supposed to be the top of a jar...a chimney sort of thing. And it was so small I had difficulty getting the clay into the bottom of it. But when it was done, I had a nice flowing little cup. Now what?

As I looked at it, I mentally saw flower petals coming over the sides. So I kinda experimented around and finally found that if I started with an uneven parallelogram type slice from my clay slab and shaped the edges a bit, I had a nice looking leaf/petal.

So I 'flowered up' my little cup, and I finished it off by adding some stamens, which I really hope won't look like worms when it's glazed and fired!

I had a little time left before I needed to leave, so I thought I'd do what I should've done to begin with...an ornamented basic bowl. I used a small bowl mold, and this time I just added a decorative band to the top. I came up with the idea of braiding rods, but I had problems rolling out long, even rods.

When I asked Mr. S. if there was a trick to making long, even rods, he showed me his 'Claystruder'...a wall-mounted Fun Factory! He pounded out a chunk of clay, put it in the extruder and made a pile of long rods for me to braid (several other folks made use of the rods, too).
I just about ruined it, though, when I tried to put a bow on the seam of the braiding. The braiding looked cool; the bow looked cheesy. I pulled the bow off, but the 'knot' was stuck tight. I looked for something to use to set a design on the 'knot' to make it look more, um, intended, but didn't have any luck. Finally, I copied a couple of other folks who were imbedding ferns into their work to make some impressions and took a wee bit of a fern leaf and embossed it into the 'knot'. It'll burn out when the piece is fired; hopefully it'll look intentional ;).

Next month we will glaze our pieces and in December they'll be raku-fired. So I still don't know what I'll end up with.

Restful recreation...check....doing something I'd wanted to do for a long time...check...Jubilee? definitely check.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flashback Friday #17: How Ironic

I still am looking for the lighthearted; maybe because everything in the news is so...heavy...

This is from Jan. 20, 1994...

Definition of irony: you decide that this is absolutely the week to start the diet-and-exercise program -- and the next day the 8 boxes of Girl Scout cookies that you ordered 2 months ago are delivered to your door.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Be E-Responsible...Please!!

I have declared my blogs 'politics free zones' -- that is, I'm not going to talk about my candidate of choice, nor will I speak against the other folks, but there is something in this political season that *really* bothers me.

Forwarded inflammatory emails.

I just deleted one from a person who holds a position I respect that rather confrontationaly addresses statements by one of the candidates, citing untruths therein.

The problem is, when I checked it out on Snopes, most of those 'corrections' turned out to be misinterpretations of a statement, or something taken out of context or only partly true. Some were blatantly wrong, using wrong information.

Oh, and in that same inbox I had *another* email asking me to sign and forward a petition against RM-2493, a variation on the old 'Stop Madalyn Murray O'Hair' petition that has been going around in some form since before the internet was even up and running.

I have gotten that one so many times I have that truthorfiction.com page bookmarked.

This really bothers me. As believers, we should be dealing in truth, not rumors or suspicions. Please, folks, check your facts before you pass them on.

Passing on stuff like this hurts the credibility of all of us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Plain Vanilla: Patience, Part 3

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Oh, the irony: Yesterday evening, my ISP filter suddenly blocked all of Blogger. I fired off three different 'review this site' requests, fretting that I'd be blocked and not able to post today's final post on *ahem* patience.... Yeah, I'm still learning...!

If you want to catch up, here's Part 1 and Part 2

Finally,the third application of patience is...watch your attitude. Maybe you’re stuck in a situation that you can’t bail out of, even if you wanted to, and there is nothing you can do to bring about God’s deliverance. You, quite simply, are caught in events completely beyond your control.

In a prolonged unchanging and unchangeable trial, the danger is not that you will give up, or mess it up, but that you will develop a bitter attitude and/or a complaining spirit. Hey, this is a bigger deal than we realize, because God will not bless complaining.

This has been a hard lesson for me, personally, because I complain without even realizing it. I’ve still got much growing to do in this area. But the lessons are coming:

A number of years ago, I was in a situation that I considered to be just plain unfair. I had learned enough to know not to gripe about it to anybody else, but it was just really getting to me. Finally, I found myself driving home from the grocery store, completely alone (I had pre-school kids at the time...time alone was rare). Now, I thought, I can at least tell God how unfair this whole situation is! I opened my mouth and began to let God know exactly what I thought about the way I was being treated. I got about to the second sentence when He stopped me cold.

“Do you think I don’t know what’s going on?” I felt Him speak to my spirit.

“Well,” I replied, “I know You know, but I just feel like I need to say it out loud anyway…y’know, Lord, get it off my chest.”

Suddenly, the Holy Spirit showed me that I wasn’t sharing my heart with God – I was justifying my feelings. I saw that I was actually rehearsing my story so I could tell it for maximum effect later on! And, instead of turning the burden over to God, I was just getting myself more upset about the situation. I felt Him very deliberately tell me not to speak out loud what I was feeling. Big ouch!

But, I have to tell you that, something like a year later, I could not remember what it was that had upset me so. I remembered who it involved, but I honestly could not remember the particulars of why I was feeling so ill treated.

Now, if I had lamented to God about it every time it came to mind, it would have been rooted deeper and deeper in my spirit. I would have been able to relate (quite effectively and eloquently!) to anyone and everyone how I had been misunderstood and misjudged and mistreated. But, because I swallowed my perceived injustice when God told me to do so, it left me. Stayed gone for many, many months.

Then, one day, right out of the blue, the whole situation appeared in my head. You can say what you want, but I believe the devil was trying to steal my victory in that area. But – here’s the amazing thing: Though I remembered, literally in a flash, all the details and who said and who did and how unfair I thought it was at the time, there wasn’t one bit of pain associated with the incident. The whole thing was healed up. That seemed to me to be an even greater victory than just forgetting about it!

Now,let me give you an example of someone who apparently resisted all impulses to complain - even though his suffering came because of the unrighteous actions of other people, and even though several people betrayed him over a period of some twenty years. This guy had every reason to be the biggest complainer on earth. He could have told a sob story on somebody’s talk show that would have moved the hearts of thousands. Sure, he was his daddy’s favorite, and he had a big mouth and youthful indiscretion in using it, but he never did anything really wrong to his brothers. Certainly nothing worth barely escaping a death threat by being sold into slavery.

Most of us would have given into bitterness and resentment at that point, telling everyone we could about the great life we used to live and how unfairly we’d been treated. But, Joseph seems to have accepted what came and made the best of it, trusting God to make those troublesome dreams of his come to pass, even though they looked even less likely now than ever. We do know that God blessed him in everything he did, so much so that Potiphar put him in charge of the whole household and Potiphar’s wife couldn’t keep her hands off of him. Then, the second blow came – Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, then accused him of attempted rape when he refused her (setting a great example of “fleeing sexual immorality” in the process!). Potiphar, probably feeling that he had to publicly believe his wife over his trusted servant, had Joseph thrown into prison (I think this was just for publicity’s sake...if he had really believed Joseph was guilty as charged, he could have had him killed at once). No judge, no jury, no sentence. Once again, Joseph was simply thrown away.

Now, if I were Joseph, I would really be lamenting my circumstances. Not once, but twice, he had suffered a major life calamity due to someone else’s unrighteous actions. But, again, he seems to simply trust God that it will all work out right in the end. He makes the best of his situation, maintains his integrity, and quickly becomes the most trusted inmate of the prison, given responsibilities over the other prisoners and in the activities of the prison...for years. He just keeps on doing, with the best of his ability, that which is given him to do. Of course, now we can all see how this worked out to bring about the promises of God; but at that time Joseph was just going on faith.

The Apostle Paul stated the essence of the proper attitude in Philippians chapter four, when he writes, “...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, for I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:11b – 13). Joseph knew this secret…and you and I must also learn it if we are going to see all of God’s promises for us come to pass.

So, whether you are dealing with a protracted period where God seems to have forgotten you, or you’re in the middle of really unpleasant circumstances and God isn’t speaking, then 1) don’t bail out, 2) don’t try to fix it yourself and 3) don’t complain. Keep doing the best you know how to do, and listen closely, because when God speaks, your situation is about to change.