Friday, May 30, 2008
Hm...This Flashback thing is tougher than I expected. I need to allow more time for journal-perusing. I thought I could just pick up any journal and find something worth sharing, but it appears I actually wrote more about day-to-day happenings in those ancient journals than I wrote about spiritual revelation.
But here's an entry dated July 21,2003:
David, in Psalms 27:4...
"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple."
Now, contrast that with [the request of] Solomon in 2 Chronicles 1:9 - 10 :
"Now, LORD God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?"
Don't settle for second best -- the presence of the King is always preferable to the ability to perform in your own strength.
I actually remember when that revelation hit me...David asked for God's presence every day of his life, whereas Solomon asked for the ability to govern the people himself; Solomon's request actually meant he would rely on himself rather than continual revelation from God. And it was a good thing, but not the best thing. David knew if he stayed in God's presence, he would do what God intended.
Which is actually another way of saying...again...that in God is everything we need.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
It's ironic that I have to be reminded of that even when I'm blogging at a site called 'Beer Lahai Roi'...but I'm full of insecurities and fears and I do need to be reminded.
So what has God done this week? Reminded me.
I got an email a few days back from a friend saying that I had been on her heart for quite a while and she'd been praying for me. Now, this isn't a *close* friend; we don't go shopping or do lunch, but we do usually chat a moment when we run into each other at church. That God would put me on her heart astonished me. That she'd prayed for me for two-three months without telling me undid me.
Then, Tuesday night I got another email from her. She said she felt like God had told her something for me...it was
Sometimes we already have what we have been asking God for and we just don’t recognize it as His gift. As the very thing that we have been asking for all along
My jaw dropped...isn't that what I asked myself after seeing in the study that very day that Naomi counted herself empty even though God's blessing was right beside her?
Then, this morning I finally did Day 84 of John Bevere's study Drawing Near (I won't tell you how many days it actually took me to get to Day 84. Suffice it to say it was a LOT more than 84...). Part of today's assignment was to look back over the journaling from the previous, um, '12 weeks' and make note of particular revelations. So I flipped back through the entries and I caught a quote taken from the journal/workbook...the first week, day 6:
Having planted you in good soil, He provides the rain and sunlight. All you need to do is to grow and flourish and bear much fruit. Your job is to keep growing toward the sun.
At the time, I made a note of how similar this is to a statement from my Apple Tree parable:
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.”
Coming across that again today, it struck me that God has already given me anything I need.
Duh. Sometimes I have to run into the wall before I see it. "Oh, look, a wall!"
D'you suppose God is trying to tell me all the stuff I'm ...ok, I'll be honest...worried about is already taken care of? That He really does see me?
It's time that revelation made it from my intellect into the fiber of who I am.
I am seen.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Ruth: A Blogged Bible Study
5/27/08 Chapter 1: Losses and Gains
6/3/08 Chapter 2: Gleaning
6/10/08 Chapter 3: Redemption Requested
6/17/08 Chapter 4: Redemption Manifested
Chapter 1: Losses and Gains
Imagine for a bit that you are a woman of the tribe of Reuben about a thousand years before the birth of Christ. You...and perhaps some companions...have a walking trip you must take. Early in the morning, you make your way from your home near the Moab border west to the road that comes up from Moab and heads North. With the sun coming up behind you, the early summer day promises to be lovely, and, when you reach the road, you decide to stop and rest just a bit and have a snack of raisins and roasted grain and a drink from the water sack before continuing your journey.
Sitting under a gnarled tree, by a large rock, munching slowly on your provisions, you are not seen by the three women coming up the road from the south. An older lady, with two young women, all in mourning garb, are moving slowly but with purpose along the road, small bundles strapped to their backs. Suddenly, they seem to realize that they have left Moab and are now in Israel, and they stop to confer. You cannot make out what they're saying, but they are obviously distressed. The older woman speaks, and points back down the road the way they came. Both younger women shake their heads, and the sound of weeping reaches you as they clasp the hands of the older woman, one on each side. The older woman rather abruptly shakes her hands free, and points back towards the south, and, although you still cannot make out what she is saying, you can detect the hard bitterness in her voice. One of the young women takes a step backwards, looking into the face of the older woman for a moment. Then, she begins to weep anew as she kisses the older woman sadly. She glances at the other young woman, who shakes her head slightly. The first young woman nods and squeezes the hand of her contemporary, and, with tears streaming down her face, turns reluctantly towards the south and heads back whence she came.
The other two women watch her for a moment in silence, then the older woman turns back to her companion and gestures back towards the south again. But this young woman shakes her head resolutely and speaks firmly. A slight shift in the morning breeze brings one phrase to your ears, 'Where you go, I will go....' When she stops speaking, the older woman looks at her intently and the young woman does not flinch under her gaze. The older woman nods once and, without speaking, turns her face toward the north and resumes her journey. The younger woman looks back south at the retreating figure and lifts one hand in a gesture of farewell, then rubs her hand across her face to wipe the tears away and turns to follow the older woman, hurrying her steps just a bit to walk beside her. They do not speak as they go over a slight rise and out of sight.
Although the book is named for Ruth, it is much a story of Naomi as it is of Ruth, especially in the first chapter. Naomi has been ten years away from her home, and she's lost her husband and then her sons. There is no mention of how they died; it has always struck me as odd that both her sons, who would have yet been young men, should die in an apparently very short time period. If it was an illness, it was odd that none of the women seemed to contract it. It seems likely that the young men died in an accident of some sort, but there's no way to tell. A now childless widow in a foreign land, she had no protection/provision at all where she was and, when she heard that the famine that provoked them to move to Moab had ended, she decided to return home. The daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, were likely living with her and helped her make the small preparations for the journey...probably selling what they could not carry with them and paying off any debts. They obviously took very little for the journey that would take them up the east side of the Dead Sea, across the Jordan, and west-southwest to Bethlehem.
There's no mention of how far the three women traveled together; at some point Naomi realized what the younger women would give up if they went with her. Perhaps she remembered how she felt, moving to a strange nation among people of strange customs. Or, perhaps in her bitterness she did not want the obligation of providing for them. Whatever her thoughts, she exhorted them to go back to their own people and find new husbands...and a future. Orpah, released from the obligation to care for her mother-in-law, decided to obey her wish. Ruth, however, refused to leave. In a beautiful little speech that is often quoted in weddings, she declared her intention to stay with Naomi all her life.
Naomi, however, did not recognize yet what Ruth was. When she arrived in her hometown, the folks there were astonished at her return. But Naomi did not even want them to call her by her name ('Pleasant'). Instead, she wanted them to call her 'Mara' ('Bitter'). 'I went out full' she told them, 'but the LORD has brought me back empty.' In typical human fashion, she put all her calamity down as God acting against her, personally. 'The Lord has afflicted me,' she lamented, 'The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.'
But standing silently beside her was a treasure whom God had seen and reached into Moab to bring out, because her character would shape a lineage. God's hand was not against them...it was for them. He had a greater destiny for them than they would have seen living in a foreign country, married to men who were content to live away from the land of God's promise. Naomi came back, not empty as she thought, but full of potential and on the brink of seeing God do great things.
It was not chance that brought them back to Bethlehem just as the barley harvest was beginning.
And, close to this same time, in the hill country of Ephraim, was another childless young woman who was beseeching God for a son. Though these women would never meet, the aged son of the Ephraimite would anoint a boy who was the great-grandson of Ruth. The time of 'everyone doing as he saw fit' was drawing to an end. There was a king coming.
But all Naomi could see at that moment was how much she had lost.
Closing thoughts: What negatives am I focusing on in my life, to the point that the blessings God has sent me are not even noticed? What have I gained that I have not even considered worth mentioning? Am I allowing bitterness in any area to prevent me from recognizing treasures God has placed in my life?
Monday, May 26, 2008
But something about it disturbed me.
Last year, I made 'Mantles' for the third year graduates. Last year, there were 6 members of the third year class; this year, there were 16. I asked Pastor Angie back in March if they were going to do the mantles again this year; if they were, we needed to get on it (I planned to call in the Sewing Ladies for help). She said they had some things they were looking at online and she'd get back to me. Well, a few weeks later she said they'd found some for $8 each and decided to purchase them. To be honest, I was a bit relieved not to worry about it.
But last night, as I watched the mantle-passing, it just felt...wrong. Last year, I'd made them specifically for each student, with their names in them, praying blessings and guidance for them as I made them. This year, I realized that those mantles were created anonymously; no one knows who made them, and the folks who made them had no idea where they were going. The mantles should be a blessing...made with blessing and given with blessing.
So after the service I found Pastor Angie and told her I would make them from now on.
I'm planning to start on them as soon as we know who will be in the third year class; we can hand them over early and the folks who will be praying over them can have those mantles as prayer reminders in the weeks and perhaps even months leading up to the commissioning service.
That way the mantles will not just be a disconnected symbol, but a real evidence of blessing.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
This is the 4th year for the program at our church. For each of first two years graduation was only one service...but it ran so long that the decision was made to split it into two services last year. Both were well attended and I don't think either of them was any shorter than the one service the previous year! But it's ok. To be honest, I don't remember noticing how late it was until it was over.
So, for anyone who's close enough, if you're free tonight and/or tomorrow night, it's worth the drive (it starts at 6:30 tonight and 6 tomorrow night). Be ready to stay late, expect to be touched...and bring Kleenex. You have been warned. ;)
Friday, May 23, 2008
It's not that God is withholding His presence [from] us when we fall on our faces and beg Him [to come to us]...it is that we, His people, are not aligned for him to do it. As the water is held back by a dam, so is God's power held back by walls that do not yield to Him. We are His people, yet we beg for His presence even as we harbor unforgiveness, rebellion, selfishness - God has promised that if the people called by His name would 1)humble themselves 2)seek His face 3)pray and 4)turn from their wickedness, THEN He will come, forgive sin, and heal the land.
[As I was praying] I saw a [mental] picture of people who were little lights, one light at a time. But, when they lined up, the light that was in them also flowed between them and increased to a brilliant beam -- because they were properly aligned. As more and more people came and stood in the formation, the light became a fire spreading in a beam from one to another, burning but not consuming.
Lord, show us how to truly repent and recognize any harbored evil -- purge us and call us into alignment so that Your power can flow and not be impeded by any walls of resistance in us....
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
There are some really, really great blogs out there (I will get links posted to more once I get a chance to consider them all better). Many are written by women who are real Bible scholars; who are researching things and posting very deep-delving Bible studies. They're profound and detailed and highly informative.
This ain't gonna be like that.
The Bible is an incredible book; no matter how deep you dig you will find gold. And I know that there are folks who are really deep-diggers; but I really want to inspire folks who are intimidated by the idea of Bible study. Those are the folks I am really writing to. The deep-digging ladies are motivated; the intimidated ones are, well, intimidated. And probably feeling guilty because they *know* they should be studying, but they're overwhelmed by The Book and the Attitudes About The Book and they don't know where to start.
So my 'Bible Studies' aren't likely to be really deep. I may look at things a little differently than the Sunday School quarterly ever did, but it's still going to be basically what can be found in the text itself.
Mostly, I'd just like to encourage everyone to start. Somewhere in the Bible; doesn't matter where. See something...anything...for yourself. Write it down. You're on your way.
It doesn't matter how deep or profound it is; it will be what the Holy Spirit knows you need at that moment. Don't let the Enemy put condemnation on you because it's not what anyone else sees.
Sure, I'll be sharing what I find in these things, but it's meant to be a demonstration of what is there to find, not the Last Word on the Meaning of the Passage, so I hope folks will make use of the comments to share what they've found in the passage, too.
That way we'll all benefit.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Ok, here we go...
For my first attempt at an on-line study, I decided I'd kind of go with the flow of the Wife of Noble Character and look at a book that focuses mostly on women: Ruth.
Plus, Ruth is a very short little book, so it'll be a good pilot study.
Anyway, here's the Syllabus for our little walk through Ruth:
Ruth: A Blogged Bible Study
5/27/08 Chapter 1: Losses and Gains
6/3/08 Chapter 2: Gleaning
6/10/08 Chapter 3: Redemption Requested
6/17/08 Chapter 4: Redemption Manifested
One of the things I love about Ruth is that it is a relief to the dismal book of Judges that precedes it. When I was teaching the 'through the Bible in six years' curriculum, Judges and Ruth were almost always put together in one quarter's study...which meant that we ended the quarter on the upbeat of Ruth instead of the downbeat of Judges.
The time period for Ruth is just given as 'when the judges governed'. But, kind of doing some mathematical guesstimation, I'm going to place David's father, Jesse, as a contemporary of Samuel's sons, which means Obed would be more or less a contemporary of Samuel, which means the bulk of the book of Ruth likely took place when Eli was the high priest/judge of Israel. We know from the early pages of 1 Samuel that this was a very corrupt time in the land; 1 Samuel 3:1 says 'the word of the LORD was rare.' The end of the book of Judges does not indicate any leader for the nation prior to Eli; it just says 'everyone did as he saw fit' (Judges 21:25) (aside: there's a sermon in that phrase....).
So, it is in this rather bleak, spiritually dry environment that the events recorded in the book of Ruth take place. It's interesting to note that Ruth is a turning point; things happen in Ruth that are seeds of change for the whole nation.
So...grab a four color pen, or your study guide, or whatever and dig into Ruth along with me! We'll hopefully all learn something.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The little discussion about the Proverbs 31 woman last week kind of got me thinking, and I recollected an assignment given in a Bible study I was in, oh, 6 years ago?
The assignment was to write a response to Proverbs 31, reflecting my own life. It seems a good thing to post for a 'Pick myself up, brush myself off, and start fresh yet again' (IOW, 'repent and refresh') Monday morning:
(not at all sure what I’m supposed to do for this assignment,
But here goes…)
I am prized above rubies…
I must be, because He spent His own blood to purchase me.
Even though I have far to go to equal the achievements of the Wife of Noble Character;
He sees who I will become
When I leave all complaining behind
Grasp the concept of Sticking to the Daily Plan
Climb out of bed with a blessing instead of a groan
Close my mouth instead of relating the humorous story about my hubby
And speak gently to my children at all times.
I am prized above rubies now…
Even though I’m not there yet.
He knows my heart.
He hears the prayers as I do the housewife thing (or at least try),
Sees with me the vision of an ordered house
Stills the voice of the clutter so that I can meet with Him
Meets me where I am, with no condemnation
But prods me to keep trying, even as I say
“How could I let this get so far behind?!”
I know I am prized above rubies
Because He has blessed me beyond measure.
He sets before me the standards of excellence
Then says ‘I will help you get there.’
So – with His help –
The house will be ordered
The meals will be timely and nutritious
The wool and the flax that I have selected (yards and yards!)
Will be made into useful garments
The budget will be balanced
I will find a way to bless others
I will encourage and enjoy my children
I will be a blessing and a help to my wonderful husband
And I will be an expression of Jesus to everyone I meet.
Let’s get to work.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
I recently read a quote that I didn't get the opportunity to write down right away; I wish I had, so I'd know I was quoting accurately. I believe it was attributed to Mark Twain, and it went something like this:
"It's not what you don't know that hurts you...it's what you know that you know but isn't so."
I've been eating big helpings of that in the last 24 hours.
Ok, I really thought that I had an arrow when I turned left from one street to another; it never occurred to me that I needed to yield to the car coming off of the parking lot that the road I was turning from ran into. Fortunately, he didn't hit me, but he honked long and loud to let me know I was in the wrong. And, yes, when I went by there today I looked; I was supposed to 'Yield on Green'. My bad.
And the MPact/Teen Girl Ministries talent show this morning...I was sure someone told me last year that it is *always* held at a church about 5 miles from us. But when I got there at 8 AM and found the rest of my Human Video team standing around a locked church, I began to wonder. Oh, no...it was really at a church in the next town over; about a 20 minute drive. My bad again.
And I thought they said spaghetti for lunch and told all my girls (and their parents); nope, it was sandwiches.
Oh, and did I know sign language in human video is expressly forbidden in the rules? Since our girls were the only ones competing in their age group, they got the nod to go to the next level but...um, we were warned we might want to change one little part to take out what is actually sign language.
Nope. Didn't know that.
Some of those things were pretty piddly (you can get over being hungry with a sandwich or spaghetti; doesn't matter), some were embarrassing (the wrong church!!! with gas at $3.75/gallon!!!) and some were potentially dangerous (I still think the city should handle that intersection differently, but I was clearly wrong). But it doesn't really matter; I was wrong on all counts on areas that I thought I was right.
If you apply that to spiritual things, it can get really serious. Sort of like the leaders who refused to consider that Jesus might be the Messiah because 'no prophet comes from
It's enough to keep me on my face before God, seeking to stay free of all levels of deception.
Including ones dealing with traffic lights.
Friday, May 16, 2008
A number of my sewing buddy friends do what they call 'Flashback Friday' posts, in which they post a years-old photo either showing something they made, something a relative made, or just something that's interesting because of the clothing style or hair do.
I thought I'd do a little different version of 'Flashback Friday'. I've been journaling (albeit sporadically) for over 20 years; long enough that when reading old journal posts they frequently hit me as if someone else wrote them; it's been so long, I forgot! Sometimes those old posts really strike something and I need to kind of go back and look at those revelations.
So, today I'll start my own version of 'Flashback Friday'...a snippet from old journals.
I'll start with the journal entry that I happened to re-read a couple of days ago that was the inspiration for the series; it was the first entry in a new journal and it's dated only '2-25'. It was either 2003 or 2004; I'm not sure which (this particular journal was one I carried to early morning prayer meetings and recorded things that came to me there; it wasn't a daily-entry type journal).
It is not enough for self to be broken; there are specific places that must be broken; precise locations in that wall that must be breached. Breaking can happen, but total yielding doesn't happen until all the fortified strongholds of the flesh are broken. So long as one part remains intact, it is a barrier to the flow of the Spirit in that place.
The first step to breaking down these places is to stop reinforcing them. But be encouraged: a wall that is breached in any place is therefore easier to bring down anywhere else. It only takes a trickle of water through the dam to eventually wash it all away, so long as no reinforcements are brought in. Let the Spirit do His work: cooperate, don't resist or even just put it off. Put on the Spirit at the moment He speaks.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The second Tuesday of every month is Mentoring Moments night...our women's ministry time. We've been doing different things with this; part of the mix is 'Table Time'...sometimes it's the whole meeting, sometimes it's just for part of the evening. We have about 20 women --including yours truly-- who are 'table leaders', and who plan an activity, event, short study, etc., for 8 ladies. To date, the only stipulation to the tables was age group (I have "Women in their 40's"). What we do is completely up to us. Last night was Mentoring Moments, and, as it happened, we didn't do Table Time this month, but I thought by way of introduction I'd share what I did at Table Time last month...that'll be the first monthly 'Table Time' post.
I bought about 2 dozen small cans of Play-Doh and a new Fun Factory and set them around the table. When the ladies got to my table (who those ladies were might be the subject of another post; for right now I'll just say that it wasn't who I'd planned for), I told them they were to use the Play-Doh to make a representation of some aspect of their lives, which they would then explain to us when everyone was finished.
It was funny... as soon as I gave that instruction, almost every one of them took the lump of Play-Doh, put it on the table and rather violently smashed it flat! We all laughed, and while they worked I read The Teacup Story and then shared some thoughts that had occurred to me as I began to think about what Play-Doh can teach us:
- Play-Doh is wonderful so long as it's malleable. Once it begins to harden, and the salty crust starts forming, it's not good anymore. We must remain pliable in the hands of the Master; we absolutely do not want to be crusted over!
- Play-Doh smells wonderful but tastes nasty! Ain't that just like temptation? It looks and smells wonderful, but once you partake of it...yuck!!
- You can mix the colors together but you can't ever separate them again. Some decisions are irreversible.
- Ya gotta clean out the Fun Factory before you put it away. The reason I had to buy a new one for that evening was that my youngest DD had recently pulled out the Play-Doh box at home and discovered that whoever had played with our 15-plus-year-old Fun Factory last did not clean it out; the old Play-Doh was hardened inside and it couldn't be used. Hanging on to the last great thing God did can keep the next great thing from getting through to you
- Play Doh requires no training and has no learning curve. You just jump in and start making stuff. We forget that that's really true in the Kingdom, too. God trains us as we press into it; we learn as we do.
- Even the poorest rendition of a butterfly is wonderful to a three-year-old who wants you to make her a butterfly from the Play-Doh she hands you. God doesn't ask us to be perfect at what we do; He just asks that we're willing to give it our best shot and He'll take it from there
- Sometimes you're smashed into a pancake; sometimes you're rolled into a 'snake' and sometimes you're pushed through the Fun Factory. But it all is God's way of conforming us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29)
-Play-Doh retains the image of the hand that formed it. 'Nuff said!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
(I looked around a bit for a way to upload my Study Guide as a PDF file; so far, everything I found indicated it needed to be loaded to a hosting site and then linked. I don't have time to do all that, so I'm afraid it's going to be imbedded. But it's not like it's a great work of personal intellectual property, so feel free to borrow and adapt the idea however it works for you...)
When I taught the youth Sunday School class back in the day, we used a denominationally-printed quarterly . A little. The curriculum we used was designed such that we covered the entire Bible in 6 years (that curriculum has since been discontinued). I thought that the concept was great; kids who grew up in church got a passing acquaintance with the entire Bible in the time it took them to go from 7th grade to High School graduate. Granted, some texts were covered very minimally (we did not, for instance, look at all 150 Psalms individually), but I loved that we really did get into every book.
However, the material was extremely weak. There was a 'background passage' that the student was minimally encouraged to read through the week, but the lesson was usually taken from a short excerpt (the 'focal passage') from the background passage. And it usually seemed rather contrived to make the lesson support one of a limited set of lesson objectives instead of really looking at what was going on in the text.
So I told the kids to read the background passage and use the following Study Guide as lesson preparation:
Lesson Date:_____________ Scripture Passage ___________________
Choose a memory verse for this week and write it here:
1.Roughly outline the passage. Divide the passage into sections that make sense to you. List the divisions, the verses included in each, and a short phrase to describe each division:
2. What title would you give the entire passage?
3. What do you think is the biggest (or most important) truth contained in this passage?
4.What changes, if any, do you need to make in your own life to apply the truths you have learned?
5. List any questions or comments that came to mind as you studied this scripture:
(This was spaced out to fill a single sheet of paper; I omitted the extra spaces, but you get the idea).
Did the kids do it? Well, if I had some sort of incentive for them...but I used it to prepare to teach the lesson. And found it extremely useful just for myself. Later on, when I was in Bible Study Fellowship, I discovered this was sort of a beginning level of homiletics. The homiletical method BSF teaches is very, very detailed and more directed than my little outline, but it's the same basic thought process. It really doesn't matter that the idea of homiletics is to prepare a teaching for others; it's still a good tool for personal study. After all, a personal Bible study is basically an exercise in teaching oneself anyway. ;)
Sunday, May 11, 2008
We learned a new song for worship this morning. If I were not so sleep deprived (we had severe storms in our area overnight; I got about 2 1/2 hours of sleep last night...), I might even be able to recollect the lyrics. All I can remember now is that it was a song expressing amazement at how much God loves us.
But I do remember that, as we were singing, it hit me that that really is a concept unique to the Judaeo/Christian world view. I don't know of any other religion that is based on the foundation of God who loves.
He loves us so much that he himself made the sacrifice required to restore us to himself. Other religions require humans to make sacrifices to appease the deity; Christianity believes that God made the sacrifice in order to restore what humans broke. It's staggering...and it's unique.
It is certainly a rock on which to build a life of faith.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Does anyone besides me read Proverbs 31 and wonder when on earth that lady had her Quiet Time??? I see head-spinning busyness in that passage...but no 'sit down and spend time with God' allotment....
I've struggled with setting aside time for study and reflection on a regular basis. My best time is in the evening, when everyone else is in bed and the house is quiet,when I'm not fretting about what I'm not doing, when I'm reasonably awake (if I could live life by my internal clock, I'd probably go to bed around 1:30 or 2 am and sleep till 10ish...but, the rest of the world doesn't run that way, so I fight that inclination.) But, My Sweet Baboo IS a Morning Person, which means he is NOT a Night Owl, which means he likes to retire for the evening right after the young 'uns are settled. Now, I'm just going to say that I would be a very unwise wife to stay up to commune with God every evening, so I can't schedule my Quiet Time in my preferred time slot.
It has worked somewhat during summer vacations in the past to do a designated Quiet Time from, say, 9:30 - 10 every morning. I called the kids in, told them it was time to read their Bibles and write in their journals and set the timer and we all found a spot to do that. But when I'm home alone and don't have to set aside that time for EVERYONE, I tell myself things like 'I'll throw this load in the laundry and then I'll sit down' and suddenly, while throwing the load in the laundry, I'll realize I've got to get a check out in the mail that very day, and that leads to noticing the mess on the computer desk and starting to clear it away...and while I'm here, I'll just check my email real quick...oh, there's something that needs a response...and so goes the morning and then the day and I've not sat down with my Word.
In our monthly Night of Worship this past Sunday, I really felt like I heard God instruct me to get up at 5 AM and spend time with Him. And so far this week, I've gotten up and read and journaled...barely keeping my eyes open. My journal writing is a semi-legible scrawl. I'm not sure I'm getting anything out of it other than the discipline of obedience, but even if that's the only benefit I'll see for the time being I'm determined to be obedient.
And maybe when school is out in a couple of weeks I'll be released to do Quiet Time with the kids again... ;)
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I was at a conference several yeas ago where I heard great testimonies from a husband and wife team about God bringing them out of horrible circumstances and results of bad choices...real 'Rocky Road' testimonies. The testimonies had truly touched me and filled me with awe at what God did for them and how God was using them to bring other 'Rocky Roads' into the kingdom. Now, I happened to encounter Mr. ‘Rocky Road’ in the parking lot, so I tried to express how much I had enjoyed their testimonies. I really bungled it, though, when I said I had a “Plain Vanilla” testimony. He looked at me sharply and asked, “Are you saved?”
I was a little taken aback, and my reply was an incredibly astute, "Well, yeah…."
“Then it ain’t plain vanilla,” he stated. I stammered something to the effect that I was beginning to learn what God had really done for me, and he smiled and made some encouraging comment and the little exchange passed into history. But, for some reason, I felt like I had been slightly rebuked. He assumed that I meant something was wrong with a Plain Vanilla Testimony, that I considered my testimony in the kingdom to be somehow less than desirable.
The truth is, we all have been conditioned to think of plain vanilla as bland, boring, and uninteresting. Think back to when you were a kid and somebody took you to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone. Maybe you were disappointed to get a plain vanilla cone instead of a hot fudge sundae or a banana split or even a cone dipped in chocolate with sprinkles on it, but did you turn your nose up at the vanilla cone and consider it not worth eating? Of course not! Vanilla ice cream is still a treat, still a good thing, even if it is plain and unadorned. There are things you can do with plain vanilla that you can’t do with anything else. A root beer float is a beautiful thing when it’s made with vanilla ice cream, but you sure wouldn’t try dousing, say, mint chip ice cream with root beer. And I don’t think a strawberry sundae would be quite as inviting if the strawberries were on top of my favorite ice cream, peppermint candy! Hot fudge might be tasty on Rocky Road ice cream, but I’d consider it a bit of overkill. The plain truth is that Plain Vanilla is the most versatile variety available. You can do just about anything with plain vanilla… just as God can do anything with someone who has been faithful through the normal crises of life…the temptations that are common to all of us…you know, the small things.
And – guess what? Vanilla is necessary! Think about the spice cabinet in the kitchen. There's bound to be some little bottles there with the jars of powders and leaves. I’d just about guarantee you the label on the biggest one (or the only one, if that’s the case) says “Vanilla Extract.” Cooks around the world know that vanilla is an almost universal ingredient in any sweet or dessert dish. If you’re selling your house, real estate agents may even tell you to put a little vanilla on the light bulbs because it has such a pleasing fragrance. Hm…sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? A little like 2 Corinthians 2:14b -15: “…through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
So – those of us who have Plain Vanilla Testimonies and think they're dull, bland and uninteresting need a paradigm shift. A lifetime of serving God however and wherever we're called is a good and pleasing thing to Him – even if it seems pretty “Plain Vanilla” to us.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I'm staring at the computer screen wondering if I should *try* to make myself write or just wait and see if inspiration hits and I have something to say.
Part of me says, "Don't force it; if it's supposed to come, it will."
Another part says, "You learn by doing. You write by writing. The discipline of reaching for something that you don't know is there and pulling it out is really what makes a writer."
I've been living by that first dictum for a long time and I have only a little writing to show for it. I don't think I've really even scratched the surface of what I need to write yet.
So maybe it's time to change paradigms and put a demand on that writing anointing and write *something*, even if it's lame?
My grandmother had a mirror with little dolphins on it hanging on the wall opposite the medicine cabinet mirror in her bathroom. I used to like to stand "just so" between the mirrors and see the reflection of the reflection of the reflection of the reflection. Each reflection was nested in the previous one, and I could never see where they stopped. Blogging about blogging seems kind of like that to me; also like that 'circular reference' thing that Excel complains about when I click wrong whilst doing the family budget worksheet.
But the truth is, I'm really *not* just trying to fill up space...I'm trying to feel my way along into something new and unexplored.
But I kinda suspicion that the reason I'm doing this is because I'm wanting to reach for that thing that I don't even know is there and pull it out.
And I'll be as surprised as anyone else when I manage that.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
A few years back, I taught the Book of James three or four times for the local Christian Women's Job Corps site, and one of the questions that came up in class was 'How do you pick a Bible? There're so many...which one is right?'
So I kinda came up with an explanation of why there seems to be a bazillion different Bibles, when there's only one Word of God, and I thought I'd share it here.
When you walk into the local Christian Family Bookstore or Lifeway store, or whatever the local equivalent is for you, most of the different Bibles you'll see are basically different packages of the text. That is, it's a basic Bible translation that has been published with commentary and/or study guides/helps. Things like 'The Women of Faith Bible' or 'The Spirit Filled Bible' or 'The New Scofield Bible' are the same word, but different helps/notes/etc. These aren't purchased necessarily for the Biblical text but for the additional material included. And there are different *physical* packages: paperback, imitation leather, hardback, full-grain leather. You can spend a lot or a little on a Bible, depending upon how it's packaged.
But the other big difference in Bibles is the translation. King James Version, Revised Standard Version, Amplified Version, The Message...there's a bunch of them out there. What's the difference?
The church I grew up in was very mistrustful of any translations other than the good ol' King James. And the King James translation was a very good one...in the early 1600's, when *everyone* actually spoketh like thateth. And it was very controversial in its day. In fact, in the 1500's, in England, possessing a common English translation of the Bible could land you in jail...or burning at the stake. The argument against it was that the religious folk of the day believed it would be 1) sacrilegious to publish the Word of God in the crude and common language of the streets and 2)dangerous to make the Word of God available to the uneducated, common folk. They feared that the people were too ignorant to rightly interpret what they read, and they didn't want heresy to start (of course, this would have the advantage of keeping the power in the hands of the religious leaders, but there were some folk who really believed that the only trustworthy scripture was the Latin translation). So the Religious Establishment fought the translation of the Bible into English. But the translations were done...sometimes at the expense of the lives of the translators (If you haven't read Foxes' Book of Martyrs or the updated version of it that DC Talk published, Jesus Freaks, check it out. You'll be astonished at the persecution English believers suffered at the hands of the English church in the 1500's for the sake of an English translation of the Bible). It took the edict of King James to make an English translation authorized and a number of Biblical scholars representing different factions of English faith united to make the translation, which was largely based on the work of the earlier, persecuted translators.
The word of God does not change...but the English language changed. Now, the old standard is the KJV...and the new translations are sometimes suspected of being irreverent or incorrect. But if the translating is done from original language, free from denominational bias, using all the available resources and fully annotated, there's no reason for it to be any less valid than the KJV. And it will be understandable by folks who don't have the patience to wade through Shakesperian English.
Anyway, here's a sketchy view of translations:
There are basically four levels of translating: Word-for-word, literal, idiomatic (sometimes called 'dynamic equivalency') and paraphrase.
Word-for-word translations of the Bible are usually interlinear versions in which the Greek or Hebrew text is written with the English word directly above the word it translates. You'd think this would be popular, but the plain truth is that English is different from most other languages in its sentence structure; A word-for-word translation of John 3:16 reads "For thus loved God the world, so as the Son the only begotten he gave, that everyone believing in him may not perish but may have life eternal." And, um, that's pretty awkward. Plus, often there is not a one-to-one correspondence between languages; for instance, in Greek, there are at least 4 different words for love: agape, storge, phileo, and eros, all of which refer to different types of love (unconditional, familial, brotherly, physical). But in English, we just have one word -- love. We love our spouses, love our children, love our country, love pizza, love that new dress, love that movie...etc...all the same word. So to get the distinction between the different words as written in the original, there have to be some more descriptive terms added.
Literal translations try to stay as close as possible to word-for-word, but with reasonable sentence structure and include: New American Standard (NASB) and, to a certain extent, the King James or Authorized Version (KJV or AV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). The Amplified Version is an especially useful literal translation, using words in parentheses to clarify the meaning of the original language. However, the many parenthetic phrases do make it a bit tedious to read.
Dynamic equivalence (idiomatic) translations strive to reproduce not only the content but the emotion of the text; reflecting the fact that the writers of the Bible used the language of the common people of their day. Idioms, translated literally, do not always convey the real meaning (consider the phrase, “I’m hooked on chocolate,” for instance). The New International Version (NIV) is a dynamic equivalence translation, as is the New Living Translation and the Message.
Paraphrases focus more on the general meaning of the text and not the details. These are works intended to introduce the reader to the concepts and characters of the Bible but do not support development of doctrine. Paraphrases include the Phillips Bible, the Living Bible and the Contemporary English Version (CEV). These volumes emphasize ‘readability’; for instance, the CEV is written so that people who read at a third-grade reading level will not encounter difficulties with grammar or vocabulary.
Something to keep in mind, though is that a literal translation, while being technically accurate, may not quite render the original scene. Case in point: In 1 Samuel 20, Saul is angry with Jonathan for releasing David from a feast. The literal KJV, Amplified and NASB, as well as the idiomatic NIV translate Saul's outburst in verse 30 as 'You ['thou' in KJ) son of a perverse and rebellious woman!' But the paraphrase Living Bible renders that 'You son of a b----!' Now, I'm quite sure that the literal translation of the Hebrew is what is in the first four translations. But which one do you think really reflects Saul's state of heart and mind most accurately to today's audience?
Here's a just-for-fun example of the various levels of translation, hopefully making correct use of my long-dormant high school French:
Consider the French phrase: "Oui, nous n’avons pas des bananes."
Word-for-Word translation: Yes, we have not of the bananas.
Literal Translation: Yes, we do not have any bananas. (verb still negated but more readable; quantity clarified)
Idiomatic Translation: Yes, we have no bananas. (verb positive but quantity negated)
Paraphrase: Yeah, we’re plumb outta bananas. (nothing negated but conveys same meaning)
They read differently, but they all convey the same meaning. So start where you are, with a translation that's readable; God will meet you there.
Monday, May 5, 2008
I suppose once I get back into the blogging habit, I'll have a rhythm and a meter to what I'm posting, but right now I feel like I'm crossing the creek and I'm not sure where the stepping stones are. What is my next step here? Will it be right, or will I take an embarrassing tumble?
You can only stand on one stone for so long before you have to make an attempt to find the next one.
Several years ago (maybe 10? 15?) I had a real stirring in my spirit to write. The problem was I couldn't find anything to write about; only a few strange things presented themselves to my conscious creativity. One was the Apple Tree parable, posted here last week; some others I've posted on the Sewing Blog at various times (Literary Efforts on Sew Random, if you're curious and missed them the first time around). But no real vision of writing.
Maybe it's just because I didn't *make* myself write. I waited until something was burning in my spirit before I tried to write it down. I waited until I felt like I had something to say.
Most of the time, I felt like I had 'almost ideas' somewhere in my brain; trying to pen them down was very much like trying to find the mosquito in the bedroom at night. Y'know: it drives you nuts until you turn on the light and try to find the little pest...and it utterly disappears.
I was bemoaning this in my prayers one day, and actually heard an answer, 'When the time is right to write, I will give you what you need.'
So I let it go, waiting.
If I had thought back then (way before we had Internet access at home...) I'd be blogging away for folks who'd never met me, I'd've been shocked. I thought the sewing blog was the sort of fulfillment of that, and I suppose it was to a certain degree, but this...this is much closer.
And I don't want to mess it up.
So, for the hardy souls who are hanging with me here in the beginning...thanks!
Now, where is that next rock?
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Maybe it's because I've been kind of browsing other faith-connected blogs a bit, just to get a feel for how these things generally go (wow, there really are a LOT of faith-connected blogs!) and I've discovered a penchant amongst the bloggers for discussing TV shows (especially American Idol). Anyway, I decided to make a confession that actually stopped conversations in my junior-high girls class at church a few months ago. I mean, jaws dropped and eyes got big and disbelief registered on every face.
What was the bombshell?
We don't watch TV at our house.
Oh, we have one, and we do periodically sit down with pizza and popcorn and watch a DVD or video, there is a Game Cube that gets hooked up from time to time, and when the tornado sirens go off you can bet we tune in to the local weather coverage to see where the storm is and where it's headed, but I've never seen American Idol or Survivor or ER or 48 Hours or...
And if you ask me 'Have you seen that commercial where...' my answer is almost certainly going to be 'Nope.'
You get the picture.
No, I don't necessarily think TV is the Evil of The Age (although you could make a pretty good argument that it is), and no, I'm not trying to protect my family from the vileness of the world (although the 'off' button is a start on that one, too).
Nope. Nothing so high and noble as that.
We just don't have time.
I marvel at how many folks watch an hour or two of TV every night. Where do they find the time? Plus, I'm finding that I can't sit still that long anymore. I can manage to watch a movie if I'm really interested in it and if I have something to do to keep my hands busy... sewing on buttons or hemming pants or even ripping open the inseams of jeans so I can later mend the knees (maybe I should take up darning socks?). But in general...I've just got too much on the to-do list to sit down and watch TV. Maybe if I were a more disciplined, efficient housekeeper...but I'm not. There's always something that needs to be done.
But try to explain to 12 year olds why TV is not important. Talk about countering the culture!
Just curious -- do TVs in a restaurant, visible from virtually any seat, creep anyone else out? Or am I just overly sensitive because it's not on at home?