Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Consume It

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

My Grandma H. was a cook. Seriously; she owned a restaurant for a while and then was a cook at the local hospital for years. She not only cooked marvelously, but she knew how to present the food. Even after she was widowed, she took time to make her food attractive at meal time.

You can imagine how wonderful it was to go to her house for Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the table full of food...and it was beautiful.

Now, consider for a moment the work that she put into it to make it wonderful. Yet the highest honor we could give to her labor was not to sit and look at the beautiful table, admiring the feast and doing nothing to disturb the lovely presentation. No, the highest honor we could give her was to dig in, mess it up, and consume it. After the meal, the table no longer had the beautiful fact, it could be downright disgusting, if there were poultry bones about. But the meal served its purpose, and we were sustained (ok, fattened).

That's kind of how I look at a Bible. In every class that I've taught young people my marking system, someone has expressed concern that they would be defacing the Word of God by marking in it. One young lady's mother even forbade her to mark in her Bible when I gave the class Bic pens and the assignment to mark Galatians. But, like Grandma's table, God's Word is not meant to be memorialized but consumed. The highest honor we can give the Word is not to put it on a shelf and hold it untouchably sacred; it is to dig into it, study it, and make it a part of our everyday living. Sure, it may not stay pretty and neat, but if we are to become Living Epistles, that Word must get into us and transform us. Whatever we need to do to the physical book to make that happen is ok; that's why God gave it to us.

But here's a practical idea: I've recommended to folks who really have a hang up about Bible marking to go at it in a low risk fashion. Purchase an inexpensive (even paperback) Bible to mark. See if it/how it works for you.

And dig in. ;)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mark It Up

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

When I was in my pre- and early teens, I had a subscription to a magazine called Young Ambassador. I have no idea if it's still in print or not, or who published it. It was a magazine with Christian content aimed at adolescents. I don't know how long I got it, and I have no memory of any of the content except for one series that ran when I was probably in the 7th grade that was about a Bible marking system. I had a nice Cambridge (King James Version) Bible, but I'd been underlining verses with whatever writing instrument was in my hand, and I was beginning to see that that would be a mess. Whole passages marked in random colors meant that nothing in them was significant anymore; it all blended back together. So I bought a little paperback Gospel of John and marked it up according to the instructions in the magazine.

But there were problems with it. It was difficult to read through some of the darker colors like blue and purple, and I didn't like the idea of carrying around a box of colored pencils with me everywhere. But I began looking, in a very low-key way, for a way to systematically mark the Bible.

My freshman year of college, I tried highlighters of different colors; they were easier to read through but it was hard to find a variety of colors. Plus, they were bulky and hard to carry around.

A readily available, easy transportable idea didn't really hit me until after that first year of college. A Bic 4-color pen was the answer. I figured out a meaning for each of the four colors used as an underline, and came up with a number of marginal symbols to expand on it. I wrote it out on a 3x5 card and carried it in my Bible until I had it memorized.

I can honestly say that my Bible comprehension increased dramatically when I started using that system. It made me pay attention to what I was reading to decide if and how I should mark the verse. And it made verses easy to find when I later wanted to check a reference.

Here's a sample of the system: the underlining and a few of the marginal symbols (that 'C' for 'Commands' is blue, as is the triangle symbol and the general underline; it doesn't look blue on my monitor...). Feel free to use it, adapt it, add symbols, change symbols, whatever. It's a tool that can be customized however you like. That's just how I use it. The Bic pens seem to be the best of the three or four different brands of 4-color pens I've tried; they're about $2.

And you know, years later I discovered that this is sort of an entry-level induction method. Kay Arthur's Inductive Bible Study method involves detailed outlining and marking the Bible on a word-by-word level. If you're already used to marking a Bible systematically, it's not a big jump to the very detailed Inductive method.

But I'm curious...does anyone else use a system (it could be vastly different from this one) to mark their Bible?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Taking Shape

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

In my first post, I said I'd like some Bible-study related content; I've decided I'll designate Tuesdays as 'Bible-study related content' day. If I don't get any other posting done in a week's time, I will at least post something Bible-study related on Tuesday.

And I have an idea for a pilot study; something short to see how it's going to work. But I think I want to do a little foundation-laying first, so the first few weeks won't be Bible studies, but they will be related to Bible study. The stuff I taught in the Bible Study 101 class on Bible Study skills, actually. Just in case anyone's interested.

Oh, and I've found that I'm referring to this blog in my head as 'the BLR blog' since I'm still stumbling over hay/hay-eye/roy/roe-ee. And that's really kinda funny; my maiden name started w/an R, so this is also 'By Lisa (Rawlings)' ...and I didn't even realize that until this morning.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What's in a Name?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I actually started thinking about writing both blogs long before I started them; do you know what held them up?

I couldn't think of a name.

The name really was a big deal to me; the name kinda sets the tone for what is going to be included and how it's going to be expressed. With the sewing blog, inspiration hit when my older daughter exclaimed, for the umpteenth time, 'That's so random!' and the lightbulb suddenly went on...Sew Random was perfect for a blog that was basically about sewing all kinds of different things and would sometimes wander off into philosophical musings. I thought that the occasional post of a reflective nature would be sufficient to express that part of who I am, but over time I realized it really wasn't. The kicker came one Sunday when we had an incredibly moving service at church...and my blog post was, by my own criteria, about what I wore that day. I struggled. Should I ditch the 'sewing' format and go with what was stirring my spirit? But I had built a number of friends through the sewing blog; how could I just drop them? And 'Sew Random' didn't work for a journal of introspection and spirituality. The solution was obvious: start a second blog. But...what on earth could I call it?

I thought of calling it after the Ladies' Bible Study I'd taught for three years... 'Bible Study 101'. My goal there was to teach some Bible study skills/methods, as well as demonstrate that the Bible is a book anyone can read and understand. Somehow, we've got the idea that one needs a seminary degree to understand the Bible, or a study guide to take us through it. 'Bible Study 101' was about learning to read/study for oneself. All I suggested was a Bible, a notebook, and a four-color pen(I'll 'splain that in another post sometime soon).

But that didn't really reflect what I wanted; I didn't *just* want a Bible Study blog, although I wanted that to be part of the content. Besides, it struck me as being kind be on the 'Web, where there are so many excellent Bible teachers doing blogs, and call myself the equivalent of a college course.

So 'Bible Study 101' was out.

And I had nothing else even in consideration.

I'm not going to try to go into what God has been doing in me in the last two months or has been a pretty intense period. But I will say that the most recent 'stretching event' was Wellington Boone's Women's Conference at his church in Norcross, GA. I've posted on the sewing blog about Bishop Boone (Pinch Me), and I was really excited to be able to go to the conference this year. No,'excited' wasn't exactly the word; I was in desperate need of some time away to focus on getting some direction for what should come next.

Ok, I'm going to be real, here. I grew up in an independant Baptist church in Indiana and spent over 20 years in a Southern Baptist church in our area before we got transplanted to the charismatic, Pentecostal-style non-denominational church we now attend. I have a lot of respect for Baptists; they teach the Word (or used to, anyway) in a systematic fashion. There are not a lot of churches that do that anymore. But.
(And I'm leaving it there...I don't want to be critical or judgmental. Anyway, but.)

Now, I know I've got teaching gifts. I've taught for years. And, in the Baptist church teaching was ok. But women, no. So I told myself that I was not called to preach. Teach, sure. Not preach. Nope. Not me.

Well, at the conference last weekend Bishop Boone busted that wide open. He actually called everyone who was called to preach (at a women's conference, mind you!) to the front, so he could anoint them. Now, if you've been in a service where you've had that spirit quickening when God is talking to you, you know what happens...the pulse rate goes up, palms get sweaty...and you're confronted with a choice. That's what happened to me. I'd gone to the conference looking for the breakthrough...the next step...and it was like I had a revelation that I had been denying what God was putting on me, for the simple reason that I was afraid of being judged ('Oh, yeah, they went to that church because she wanted to preach'). And that was something that needed repentance.

So I swallowed hard and went up when he called us. A public confession of something I did not even want to admit to myself. And the Bishop got the oil and anointed and spoke prophetically over every one of us up there. (If you clicked through to 'Pinch Me', you have some idea of what that meant to me to be anointed by someone who has been speaking into my life and marriage for several years. Wow.)

And what he emphasized to us, both that night and in his closing remarks at the end of the conference, was 'I have confirmed the call, and I have seen you.'

Even the next week, the words, 'I have seen you' were echoing in my spirit...and suddenly I saw the point... it is God who sees me.

And Beer Lahai Roi is perfect.

The funny thing is, I picked a name I didn't know how to pronounce! I looked it up in several references; only one had any pronunciation guide at all, and all it said was "beer LAhai roi". So, aside from the emphasis being in the first syllable of 'Lahai', I'm still guessing. Is 'hai' pronounced 'hay', 'hie' or 'hay-eye'? Is 'Roi' pronounced 'Roy', 'Roe-ee', 'Roe-eye'? Does it matter?

I'm at Beer Lahai Roi, getting the life-giving water from the well. And I'm blessed that a few folks are interested in joining me here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Parable of the Apple Tree

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I wrote this in , I think, 2000. It really is autobiographical, and may give some context for what will show up here....


ONCE UPON A TIME there was a young apple tree. This apple tree was in a very large orchard owned by a kind farmer. The apple tree loved the farmer very much, for the farmer would come by and tell the little tree that he was growing into a very good tree and would, when he had grown enough, bear much good fruit. The apple tree wanted nothing more than to please the farmer and could hardly wait until he was mature enough to bear fruit.

However, since it was such a very large orchard, the farmer had many hired hands to help him tend the trees. The apple tree was always glad to see one of the hired hands, because he thought the hired hands would tell him that the farmer was pleased with him, as the farmer himself always did. But most of the hired hands did not speak to the little tree as the farmer did. Instead, they would tell the little tree that he needed to work very hard to become a good fruit-bearing tree. “The farmer isn’t happy with trees that don’t bear fruit,” they would say. “If you don’t bear fruit, you’ll be cut down and thrown into the fire.” This frightened the little tree very much, and he tried hard to bear fruit to make the farmer happy. But he was not yet mature enough to bear fruit, and nothing happened.

One day, the farmer came by the little tree. “Oh!” the little tree thought, “What if he says I must be cut down?” Instead of being happy to see the farmer, the tree was now afraid of what the farmer might say.

The farmer noticed that the little tree was frightened and spoke kindly to him. “Don’t be afraid. You can tell me your problem.”

The little tree began weeping. “Oh, master,” he wept, “I have tried ever so hard to bear fruit, but nothing has happened. I’m afraid I’m not a very good apple tree and you will have me cut down.”

The farmer smiled and gently patted the little tree. “I have planted you where you will get good sunlight, refreshing rain and good nutrients from the soil. Lift your leaves to the sunlight and put your roots deep into the soil. When you do these things, you will grow and mature...and, when you have matured, you will bear much good fruit.”

Then the farmer dug around the tree and put fertilizer into the soil. Just before he left, he smiled again at the little tree. “I will give you everything you need to bear fruit. Just trust me and all will be well.”

The little tree sighed happily. “The farmer really loves me,” he thought, “I will do just as he says.” So the apple tree put all of his effort into growing. He lifted his leaves high to the sun and reached his roots deep into the good soil and, season after season, he grew bigger and stronger and the farmer was pleased.

Then, one spring, the sun was so warm and the apple tree was getting such good nourishment from the soil that he found he was not only growing, but making flowers also. To his amazement, he discovered that it did not require a great effort to make flowers, as he had supposed, but merely doing what he had been doing all along...absorbing the sunlight in his leaves and pulling nutrients and water from the soil through his roots. He was getting so much food this way that he had more than he needed...and all the extra was enabling him to produce many, many beautiful blossoms.

The farmer was very pleased. But the hired hands shook their heads when they went by. “Oh, you’re covered with blossoms, right enough,” they would say, “But blossoms aren’t the same as fruit. You’d better make sure all those blossoms turn into fruit, or the farmer will not be pleased.”

Their words made the apple tree anxious, but he remembered that the farmer had promised to give him everything he needed to make fruit. He reminded himself to trust the farmer and continued lifting his leaves and putting down his roots.

Spring turned into summer. All of the petals fell off of the blossoms on the apple tree, and where the flowers had been little green balls now appeared. The farmer came with the hired hands and sprayed the little tree with some funny-smelling liquid. “This will keep the insects from eating your fruit,” they explained.

As the summer progressed, the little green balls grew and grew, and when the summer turned to fall, the apples began to turn red. They were very heavy now, and the apple tree found he could not hold them all. Some fell to the ground. The farmer came by and said to the tree, “You are doing exactly what you are supposed to do. I am very pleased.”

The apple tree was very happy that the farmer was pleased. But, when the hired hands came by to pick the apples, they shook their heads. “Oh, sure, this is fruit,” they said, “But it’s not the kind of fruit the farmer expects.” Then they took the apples and went away.

The apple tree was very puzzled. How could the farmer be expecting any fruit other than apples? He wanted to ask the farmer, but the farmer had to take the apples to market and he did not come by again before the apple tree went to sleep for the winter.

The next spring was much like the one before. Again, the sun was warm and the soil was rich and the apple tree was covered with blossoms. The hired hands came by and noticed that, around the apple tree where the apples had fallen in the autumn, tiny apple seedlings were growing. “Ah!” they exclaimed, “This is more like it! The farmer will be very pleased with have produced five more apple trees!” Then they dug up the seedlings to transplant them to where they could grow better.

Now the apple tree understood what the hired hands had said in the fall. It wasn’t the apples that the farmer was the trees that grew from the apples! He resolved to do his best to see that the apples fell so they would produce more trees. He so wanted to please the farmer!

So, when the fall came and the apples grew heavy, the apple tree did not try to hold them all. Many fell to the ground. The apple tree was pleased that so many fell. Surely, when the spring came there would be a multitude of apple seedlings around the tree and the farmer would be greatly pleased. But, with so many apples on the ground, there was a strong smell of rotting apples. Many wild animals were attracted to the smell, and they came and ate the apples and carried all of the seeds away.

When the spring came, there were no seedlings under the tree. The hired hands all shook their heads. “If you really loved the farmer,” they said, “You would produce the kind of fruit he really likes.” This hurt the apple tree deeply, for he truly loved the farmer and wanted to please him. Again, the tree sent his roots deeper into the soil and lifted his leaves to the sun and made many blossoms, for he was determined that he would do his best.

When the farmer and the hired hands came around again, the farmer looked at the apple tree. “Well,” he said, “You have many blossoms again this year. Please try to hang onto all the fruit. I will prune you a bit...that should help you to hang on to it.” So the farmer trimmed some of the branches on the apple tree.

That hurt the little tree a great deal, but after the wounds healed he found that he was stronger and he could hang on to the fruit better. However, now he was really confused. If the farmer wanted him to produce more apple trees, he would have to drop his fruit. If he hung on to all of it, there would be no seeds on the ground from which new seedlings could grow. He decided he would do his best to hang on to all the good fruit, and drop all of the fruit that was not growing properly or that insects had damaged. He hoped that would please the farmer.

So, the apple tree followed his plan. He had many good apples that he hung on to tightly, and several not-so-good apples that he allowed to fall to the ground. The farmer came by with the hired hands when the apples were harvested and nodded approvingly to the little tree. “You are doing well.” The little tree was very happy.

The next spring was very different from the previous springs. There was not much rain, and the soil was very dry. Because the little tree had grown so well in the earlier years, his roots were deep enough to find water down in the soil...but there was not enough water to cause the apple seeds that had fallen the previous season to grow. The hired hands came by and shook their heads. “Obviously, this tree does not love the farmer. There are no seedlings here. It’s too bad...after all the farmer has done for him, too.” Then they went away.

Now, the little tree’s heart was broken. He had wanted so badly to please the farmer, but it appeared that there was not any way that he could do so. He could make apples, but he could not control whether or not those apples turned into seedlings. He grew very discouraged. The sun was hot and the ground was dry and hard and the apple tree just didn’t have the heart to lift his leaves or push his roots deeper. There were only a few blossoms on his branches when the farmer came by.

“Oh!” the farmer exclaimed sadly. “You have given up! I know it is very dry, but there is enough water deep, deep down for you to produce more fruit than that! Why haven’t you reached down for it?”

Again, the apple tree began to weep. Now he had disappointed the farmer, and, although he still felt too weak and discouraged to produce much fruit, he still loved the farmer dearly and wanted to please him. “Oh, master,” he sobbed, “I did want so badly to please you, but the hired hands said I wasn’t producing the right kind of fruit. I tried and I tried, but I can’t make the apples turn into apple trees. First the animals came and took them, then the weather was too hot and dry for the seeds to grow. Now you will cut me down because I didn’t produce enough fruit.” And the tree was overcome with grief.

To the apple tree’s surprise, the farmer wrapped his arms around the tree’s trunk and wept also. “Oh, dear heart,” the farmer said, “Did I not promise you that you would have all you needed to produce the fruit I want? You cannot cause the seeds to turn into trees...only I can do that. If you grow strong and do as I have told you, you will produce many apples. Then, I can take the seeds from those apples and plant them in good soil, keep the animals away from them and see that they have what they need to grow. Apple trees are not fruit...they are the products that come from the fruit that you bear. There were five seedlings that sprouted here two years ago, but I have over fifty trees growing from the seeds that we took from the apples we picked from your branches. Remember what I have told you -- reach your leaves up to the warm sun, put your roots down into the soil and bear the fruit that will then grow naturally from your abundance. I will give you all you need, but you must trust me and grow strong.”

Then the apple tree understood that the farmer wanted him to grow as an apple tree should grow, and that the fruit would grow as he did. So he took heart and pushed his roots down deep into the soil to where the cool water was and he drank deeply. He lifted his leaves up to the sun and felt himself grow stronger. Since the time for setting apples was past, he only produced a few apples that season. But, they were the largest and sweetest apples produced by any tree on the entire orchard, for the apple tree put all of his love for the farmer into those apples.

When the harvest came, not one of those big, beautiful apples had fallen to the ground. Even though the hired hands shook their heads as they always did, the apple tree did not get discouraged. He had learned to listen to what the farmer said, and the farmer himself often came by and told him, “You have done well. I am very pleased.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stepping Out

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
After posting daily to a sewing blog for well over two years, I began to feel like I was, well, short-changing the more important aspects of life. Sewing is my avocation; something I do not only because it's necessary but because I enjoy the creative process. But it isn't life.

I did put references to my faith in the sewing blog, but I didn't feel it was the place to really get deep into what I believed or why...and that frustrated me. I wanted to share that aspect of my life with others, and I didn't feel free to do so there.

After much soul-searching and prayer, I've decided to start a second blog. Here I will go into those things I do not feel are appropriate for the other blog. I also hope to do some exploring of the Bible; probably a once-a-week post dedicated to Bible study. I taught youth Sunday School for years upon years in the church we were in previously and taught a weekly women's study through our current church for three years. While I may begin teaching in a class setting again at some point, the seasons have shifted a bit and I'm not teaching now; I miss it. I get much more out of the Word when I'm studying to teach; I think it's because when I'm teaching there's a demand on the teaching anointing that is not there otherwise. So, here's my personal demand on the teaching anointing: I will post a weekly study. I'm not sure when I'll start that at this point, but it's coming.

I may not post daily here; in fact, I'm going to release myself right now from the obligation to post daily. I can post some off-the-top-of-my-head randomness in the sewing blog daily, but I think this will be a little more thoughtful. My original intent was just to post the weekly study, but I think I may do a little more than that. We'll see.