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. ;)