Friday, February 27, 2009


For a lot of reasons, I'm not going to go into this much today. Maybe by next week I'll have enough distance for my perspective to be less clouded.

When God works on you, He works on you good.

But -- the verse that I'm pondering and hope to discuss a little bit with, hopefully, some pertinent application is Romans 12:2.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then, you will be able to test and approve what God's will is...his good, pleasing and perfect will.

If that isn't a challenge with a promise, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Slight Schedule Change...

Well, I tried it and it isn't working so well. So I'm going to move it.

The 'Tuesday Bible-study related' post is going to move to Fridays. Between church on Sundays, volunteer work on Mondays and Friends Club to teach on Wednesdays, it was getting harder and harder to squeeze in enough time to properly write the Bible Study post. So I decided to switch it to Fridays; hopefully, that will work better.

Now to decide what the 'next study' will be...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jubilee Monday #27: Until I Learn the Lesson...

That's how many times I will keep making public apologies for letting my mouth get ahead of my brain...and out of sync with the Holy Spirit.

I confess, there are times when I just want to crawl into my shell and stay there. Not because other people are unreasonable, but because I seem to have a bull-in-the-china shop ability to smash things I'm not looking at without realizing it until later...or until someone points out the damage.

Over and over and over again. I soooo identify with Paul's lament, 'Who will rescue me from this body of death???'

And I echo his relief... 'Thanks be to God!'

So I'm visiting Jubilee and the forgiveness therein once again...not only needing the forgiveness of the people I seemed to disrespect, but also the forgiveness of myself...for being such a bone head. Again.

Until I learn the lessons 1) that what I perceive that causes frustration may not be the whole story; and 2) not EVER to let frustration provoke a response, and certainly not in front of innocent bystanders.

Sigh. If I can finally learn those lessons in the Jubilee year, I will have Learned Something.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sewing and Growing

If you're reading the sewing blog, you know I've been working frantically on a personal costume project for one of our pastors at church. There is a method to my madness - I'm counting on him to wear it if we ever need a character dressed in that period in a church production, so it's not totally being done just out of the Goodness of My Heart. ;) Just kidding. These folks have worked hard and patiently training my kids in ministry and I'm glad to be able to repay a little of that investment.

But the truth is it has been good for me to have a seriously focused sewing project. We have a stack of sermon CD's (we are 'Message of the Month' subscribers to a ministry that has been feeding us for YEARS) and I've got a little CD player by the sewing machine, so while I'm pinning, sewing, (and, um, un-sewing and repinning) trimming, pressing, etc., I've got some spiritual teaching going in as well.

I've listened to some really good stuff this week; I could feel some mental and spiritual gears shifting as I listened. One message in particular was about worship; I think I'm going to go back and listen to that again today.

Since I'll be pretty much just sitting in the rocking chair with a needle and thread sewing the lining in the coat....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Slow Look at Fasting: Final Thoughts

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Jan. 6 - Intro
Jan 13 - Fasting in Faith
Jan 20 - Fasting seeking Answers
Jan 27 - Fasting as Submission
Feb 4 - Fasting for a Time
Feb. 11 - Fasting for Show
Final Thoughts

Amy asked me on the second lesson if I thought fasting for answers was more difficult than responding to God's call to a fast. I've been mulling that over and, for me, anyway, I think it depends on my desperation level. There've been a couple of crisis points at which I needed an answer...and, not only could I physically not eat, I could actually do very little besides lay on my face and cry out to God. That was a difficult time to live through, but it wasn't hard to fast. On the God-called fast I did last year (which rather indirectly resulted in this blog, btw), I ate what I felt instructed to eat and never really felt hungry at all during the three weeks it lasted. So that wasn't a difficult fast. The difficult fasts for me have been the called corporate fasts...the fasts of submission. That really is an act of personal discipline, and it is hard to stay focused during those times. I know our leadership has felt a call from God for the fast, but sometimes it's difficult to get my spirit engaged just from submission. And, I'll confess, not all of those fasts (there has been at least one every year we've been at our current church) found me in an attitude of submission and obedience. I went through the motions, but my personal results were minimal. Maybe I've just needed to grow some more before I could properly connect to what was happening.

However, there is one scripture regarding fasting that has come to mind over and over again and I think I'll use it to kind of close out this little look at fasting. It's in Mark's record of Jesus casting out a demon that His disciples couldn't budge (Mark 9:14-29). I admit this is a marginal reading in my NIV, but Mark relates that when the disciples questioned Jesus about why they could not cast out the demon, Jesus replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer (and fasting)." (verse 29).

Jesus had not prayed and fasted over the boy; I wondered for a long time just exactly what that meant. But, as I've gone over the scriptures for this little study, and that verse kind of simmered in the soup along with what I was looking at, I had a realization that it wasn't prayer and fasting that gave Jesus power over the was prayer and fasting that put Jesus into such close communion with the Father that he saw and heard what the Father wanted said and done in order for the boy to be delivered, so that's what Jesus said and did (see John 5:19). And the boy was delivered.

What I've learned is that fasting is a time of listening, of aligning, of focusing on God. And if I want to move from the level where I am to a higher level of service to Him, I've got to be aligned more completely, listening more intently and focusing more exclusively on what He wants said and done in every situation.

So...I need to purpose in my heart to trust Him to take care of me if I follow Him into the desert, seek Him until the answer comes, submit to and align myself with the body of believers and expect that, when the time for fasting has passed,He will do what only He can to to resolve the situation according to His purpose.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jubilee Monday # 26: The High-Fired Pot

At long last, the other one of my two pottery pieces arrived from the folks who do the high-firing. I guess it really is a 'flower pot'...(groan)

It'd been so long since I glazed it I'd forgotten what colors I used. Actually, there were only about four to choose from for the glazing, so it's not like I deliberately chose the colors to make an artistic statement. And I remember one of the glazes was mixed very thin and didn't want to stick well to my pot.

But, all the same, I'm pleased with it. It is unique; the colors kind of work, and it has the nice graceful, flowing look I wanted.

The reason it was high-fired is that the higher temperature makes a more durable piece, and since this had some very delicate parts the Artist Instructor thought it might be wise to high-fire it rather than do the lower-temp raku firing that I used on the the braid-top bowl. And, seeing the difference in the finishes, I'm rather glad I did that, even if it took longer to see the final product. The flower pot has a smoother, more even texture than the bowl. They're going to make good conversation pieces.

And I've been thinking about the high-firing process. Some things I've noted:

--High-firing took a greater investment of time, and I had no control over it at all.

--High-firing results in a stronger piece.

--A high-fired piece is useful; the raku pieces, while pretty, are not meant to *do* anything, because they are rather fragile and the glazes are not food-safe.

--A high-fired piece can hold food and/or drink. It can even be washed in a dishwasher. can be a vessel for feeding folks, and it is easily cleansed.

Now, consider applying those truths, not to ceramics, but to one's faith: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -- James 1:2-4 NIV

Next time I feel like I'm in the middle of a really hot spot, I should remind myself that it's just the high-firing necessary to be beautiful and useful in the Kingdom....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Microwaved Drama

One of my personal favorite ministry things is doing dramas/skits/etc in order to provoke an audience to consider spiritual truths. But, for several reasons, our little drama troupe at church has been kinda dormant for a while.

This morning, however, we got to do a little skit. The drama team had a slight misunderstanding somewhere along the way and thought it was supposed to be presented next least we found our error on Wednesday instead of, say, this morning...

So we were scrambling to get something to work.

And, to add spice to the challenge, we had to get the point across in less than 5 minutes (preferably between 3 and 4 minutes). Since we now have three Sunday morning services, time constraints just don't allow anything longer.

The consensus on the skit, just looking at the script, was that it was too long. So it was trimmed a bit. We went into rehearsal with a script that I *thought*, upon reading it aloud at home, would come in at less than 5 minutes.

When we went through it with the blocking, it was NOT under five minutes. And it didn't seem to get the point across.

So, the three of us in the skit took a literary scalpel to it and began whacking some more. One husband arrived to pick up his actress wife, and we performed it for him, hoping for some objective thoughts. Did the point come across? Was it too wordy? Was it funny? He liked it, but said it needed a bit of punch at the end.

Inspired, our 'Angel' character came up with exactly the right line for that punch. Time on the final run through: three and a half minutes.

So, we were on this morning...three times. And, let me just say, God is very good! It was well received, and well complimented. Put together quickly, and quickly performed.

And it was fun.

It's an indescribable feeling to be part of a message. And, given the time constraints we had, it's pretty obvious that the success of it wasn't due to the people involved! Only God could put something like that together.

Which is why it's indescribable! ;)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

As If I Had Nothing Better to Do...

Every once in a while Sitemeter indicates that someone lands on the blog via a search that makes me kind of go 'Oh, that's interesting'.

This morning, someone dropped by last week's post on the subject for a split second after searching on "evansville blizzard '78". And that made me wonder what *would* come up on that search, so I clicked through and found out.

Y'know, as a kid (even an 18 year old kid), I tended to not see beyond my nose. I suppose part of that comes from growing up on a very self-sufficient farm in a rural area...I just didn't notice what happened in the wider world.

And, although I knew that snowstorm socked the whole state of Indiana, I had no idea just exactly what happened until I started reading some of those links.

The very interesting 'snow with thunder' that I remember, snug in the dormitory, was life-and-death for many folks.

It was also a meteorological phenomenon, which I discovered when I clicked on The Weather Channel article commemorating the 30th anniversary of what is apparently not 'The Blizzard of '78' in meteorological circles (that referring to a separate event in the Northeast), but 'The Cleveland Superbomb', since the low pressure at the center of that storm dropped to a record low. In fact, that record still stands as the lowest non-tropical surface pressure recorded in the US.

So. Ya learn somethin' new every day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Slow Look at Fasting: Fasting for Show

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Jan. 6 - Intro
Jan 13 - Fasting in Faith
Jan 20 - Fasting seeking Answers
Jan 27 - Fasting as Submission
Feb 4 - Fasting for a Time
Feb. 11 - Fasting for Show

As I was checking the references for the other types of fasts, I ran across another aspect to fasting that I hadn't really considered, and I thought perhaps I should at least mention it.

Not all fasting is good. Or, perhaps a better way to put it would be that, as with any other faith-related activity, it's quite possible for it to become religious rather than responsive. Done in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, fasting is at best, an exercise in self-control. Worse than that is when fasting is used as a means to attempt to manipulate God.

For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.
'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'

Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking one another with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast that is acceptable to the LORD? -- Is. 58:2 - 5

Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: "Ask all the people of the land and the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?' " - Zech. 7:4-5

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." - Matt 6:17

And don't forget the Pharisee who went to the temple and prayed, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' -- Lk 18:11 - 12, but who did not receive anything from God.

As we have seen in the past month, fasting has definite and powerful purposes. However, proving one's worth or value to God is not one of them; neither is proving one's spiritual superiority to others. Fasting cannot be substituted for a right heart attitude or humble obedience.

So, anytime I undertake a fast, one of the first things I must do is make sure my motives are right and my objectives are in line with the true purposes of fasting.

Otherwise, I might just as well go on a diet. ;)

Next week, I'll close this out with just some relevant thoughts that have occurred to me whilst venturing through these scriptures!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Jubilee Monday #25: De Junking

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

This post has been ruminating for a few days now.

The thought processes were sparked by Antique Mommy's post, The Two Templetons. I left a comment reply on her post, but the topic has hit a nerve, and I think I probably need to address it in the remaining half of the Jubilee year.

If you didn't click through, I'm talking about purging stuff that is no longer needed, wanted, loved or useful. And the difficulty some of us (ahem, that would include me) have in discarding said stuff.

Where I grew up, wastefulness was considered a deadly sin, a character flaw, a moral failure. Part of my problem is that I have to overcome that condemnation in order to remove an item from the household.

But the other half of it is that I have a terrible time declaring something 'no longer needed, unwanted, unloved, or not useful.' I've probably read too many anthropomorphical kids' stories... I remember The Brave Little Toaster, the Steadfast Tin Soldier, the Velveteen Rabbit, The Island of Misfit Toys...and I remember the occasion upon which the item in question entered the household. Maybe it was a true Godsend at the time. Maybe it was perfect for that little unfilled spot in the household, or exactly filled a need. Maybe it was the height of fashion and made me look and feel mah-vel-ous. Or maybe it was hideous, but it was given to me with good will by someone very dear to me who is now no longer walking around on the planet.

Or maybe I'll need that exact widget for some unforeseen emergency at some time in the future.

Or, to be a bit more abstract, maybe that little rejection serves to make me feel justified in my reluctance to offer a helping hand, or even just a friendly word. Perhaps that disappointment is the rationale for me to not push myself out of the comfort zone just yet. Or that old injury keeps me considering myself a cripple so that I don't attempt to walk.

Whatever. There is a time when the old needs to go: into a trash bin, a recycle center, another home where it will fill the need for which it was designed... or just into the Sea of Forgetfulness and Forgiveness.

I need to be bold enough to see through emotions and recognize things for what they are...and are not.

And get rid of some stuff.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fathoms Beneath My Feet

Sometimes, in choir, the words of the songs hit me in a new way all of a sudden.

Today, we sang 'Here in My Life' (not sure who wrote it...shame on me!). The choir doesn't sing the verse, but I was listening to the soloist who sang:

I have never walked on water
Felt the waves beneath my feet,
But at Your word, Lord, I'll receive
Faith to walk on oceans deep

And suddenly my perspective on what I need to give to God shifted a bit.

See, I have a irrational fear of water. I had a couple of, um, unpleasant experiences with water growing up and, despite swimming lessons, I still swim pretty much like a rock. I just cannot seem to overcome the complete and total lack of the trust required to actually work with the water instead of fighting it. Deep water gives me a little bit of vertigo. I can almost feel all of that depth below the boat, or on the high water side of the dam, or wherever I might be that's close to water. I have bad dreams about deep water. It's ingrained in me. I can't even let go of the side of my in-laws backyard pool if I'm beyond the rope.

Walking on oceans deep, then, for me, would be something beyond ludicrous. Yet, there I was singing that He is all I need, and at His word I will trust Him to do something as outlandish as walking into a place that I am viscerally afraid to go.

Now, I really and truly do not expect to be put into a place where I will literally be called upon to walk on the surface of any body of water. But I do think that there are areas in which I have the same kind of fear that I will need to be willing to receive the faith to go.

Will I be willing to receive that faith? Or will I feel the oppressiveness of all that depth and freeze up; as if it were fathoms upon fathoms of water upon which I had to walk ?

With all my heart, I want to be one who dares to receive the faith to do it. Just like the song says.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Slow Look at Fasting: Fasting for a Time

posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Jan. 6 - Intro
Jan 13 - Fasting in Faith
Jan 20 - Fasting seeking Answers
Jan 27 - Fasting as Submission
Feb 4 - Fasting for a Time

Fasting for a Time

There's another aspect of fasting I want to look at in our little exploration here...folks who have a specified time for fasting.

Probably the most familiar fast of this kind is the fast Esther requested before going uninvited into the king's presence. It was an extreme fast; the fate of Esther and all her people depended upon the king granting her favor:

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish. -- Esther 4:16

Esther did not have any time at her disposal; her people could not wait. So the time was set at three days...the most they could survive an extreme fast...and then she was to go before the king. This fast was not a fast to seek answers, or a fast to align themselves; it was a desperate fast in agreement seeking one thing only: the favor of the king. They all fasted for three days, then Esther dressed herself royally and went before the king, not knowing if she would live or die.

It's interesting to note that God is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther. Esther strikes me as being very much an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. She didn't have prophetic guidance; no angels appeared to her. She was walking out her faith with no supernatural assurances that it was going to be ok. She is a great example of trusting God to lead one step at a time and taking that one step, without knowing how it would turn out. She fasted...and when the time was up, she acted. And the favor of the king was granted.

There is another example of folks with time pressing upon them who fasted: Ezra the priest and those with him who were returning to Jerusalem when the exile was ending. Ezra was authorized by King Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem with any Jews who desired to return, including any priests and Levites, taking large gifts of gold and silver for the temple and a letter requesting financial assistance for the travelers and exemption of taxes from any of the treasuries they would encounter upon their journey. However, because Ezra had assured the King that God was well able to take care of them, he did not request an armed escort of soldiers. Instead, to show that God was well able to care for them, they elected to return...with all the people and all the provisions and all the valuable gifts...totally under God's protection. So, just before they set out, they camped at the Ahava Canal for a period of three days, to fast before God and request His protection on the trip. After the three days, Ezra divvied up the valuables amongst the leadership, and they set out. (Ezra 8:21 - 31).

The journey lasted approximately four months (Ez. 7:9), and Ezra recalled that ...The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. -- Ez. 8:31

However, when Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, after the sacrifices of thanksgiving were made, he found something that appalled him: The Israelites, including the priests and Levites, had not maintained the separation from the pagan people around them and had taken the first step back into the idolatry that brought the captivity upon them 70 years earlier...they had all married women of pagan nations. Ezra grieved and mourned in public until the evening sacrifice, when he prayed for the people. The folks of the city gathered around him and began to mourn and grieve likewise, until one of the leaders suggested they all separate from the pagan folks, according to the Law. Ezra got up, they all took an oath to do what had been suggested, and Ezra went to the house of Jehonan, where he undertook another fast; three days of no food or drink, while the proclamation went over the whole country for everyone to assemble in Jerusalem to deal with this issue.

In this case, Ezra's fasting had to do with grief and, I believe, intercession. The recorded prayer confesses the sins of the people and petitions God for mercy; Ezra 9:6 simply states that during the three days of fasting Ezra continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles.

Within three days, all the men had assembled in a miserable rain and Ezra went out to them and told them of their error and called upon them to confess their sin and separate themselves from their foreign wives. The men agreed (well, most of the men agreed), and a plan was made to see that the marriages were investigated case by case, and a list was compiled of everyone who repented. It took them two months to listen to all the cases. God did not judge Israel; the people judged themselves. And the hearts of the people were willing to repent. Again, Ezra's time of fasting and prayer had results.

Ezekiel also did a fast for a specified period of time...but it was really weird, and it didn't only involve food. He was to make a model of a siege against Jerusalem, and lie on his left side for 390 days for the sin of Israel, and then lie on his right side for 40 days for the sin of Judah. (Mr. Scofield's notes state that Ezekiel did this for a few hours each day...not for the entire time. However, I'm not sure how he came to that conclusion). His food for this length of time was to be wheat, barley, beans and lentils made into bread and baked over a cow dung fire. (this was a favor from God to Ezekiel, who balked at defiling himself by baking his bread over human excrement). The point of that fast was to illustrate the appalling conditions of the coming exile. An example or lesson, if you will. And Ezekiel was not to intercede for the people as he lay; he was to prophesy against Jerusalem with a bare arm (Ezek. 4:7). Not at all comfortable for us to consider. In this case, the time was specific, as it stood for years of apostasy.

Note that with all of these fasts, there is not necessarily a victory or a release or any kind of event that signified accomplishment of purpose. For Esther's fasts and Ezra's fasts, the proof of accomplishment came when they walked out the event for which they had prayed. Ezekiel's fast ended at the appointed time... demonstrating that there was a specific time for judgment to fall, and a specific time for judgment against the nation to end.

These fasts did, however, all have a purpose to accomplish; they were not random at all. They were born out of hearts that were passionate for God, for God's people, and were obedient, even when the outcome was not assured. The people all set their sights on God and did not flinch from following His purpose, even when they were only seeing through the glass darkly.

Points to ponder: How have I prepared my heart to follow God? In what areas am I now asking to see the way clearly before I proceed, rather than taking the one step in faith that will lead to the next step that will lead to the next step? What aspect of my self am I unwilling to let 'perish' in order to give God the opportunity to work on my behalf?

One little I have been studying through this, I've found one more type of fasting that probably would be good to consider, so next week I'm adding one more lesson...Fasting for Show. Should be interesting. ;)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jubilee Monday #24: A Reminder

I just realized that I passed the halfway point of the Jubilee year a couple of weeks ago (well, actually on January 11) and didn't realize it. That fiftieth birthday is gaining speed as it approaches...

Anyway, I spent some time in a meeting discussing our Easter production today and I gotta tell ya, from a Jubilee standpoint, I am blown away. There were a lot of ideas tossed around (being one who seldom goes to movies or turns on the TV, I found I was way out of my depth most of the time. I guess there is something to say for being culturally literate...even if I hate sitting down as long as it takes to watch a movie).

But, in, forgiveness. As in, fresh starts. As in, return to the inheritance.

If the celebration of the Resurrection isn't a Jubilee event, then there just ain't one.

And I thought about what Jesus did for me...

He paid my debt, took my consequences.
Restored me to relationship with God.
Made old things of no consequence, and gave me a fresh start.

I recollected a dream I had years ago...

In the dream, I was in Jerusalem. There was a commotion on the street, and I went over with the crowd of people to see what was going on.

It was Jesus, on the donkey, coming into town. And as I looked at Him our eyes met.

But unlike the folks around me, I knew the rest of the story. I knew He was coming, not to reign, but to die. Moreover, I knew He was taking my place.

Now, I wasn't Barabbas in the dream; I was me, Lisa. And I knew that I was the one who was supposed to be under the death sentence...but that He was coming to take my place.

In the moment of eye contact, I consciously knew that was true.

The crowd pushed us apart, and I wandered down the street in a state of shock, grieving. And woke up.

I had forgotten about that dream until the meeting today, in which we discussed, among other things, Barabbas's cross. And suddenly the dream came flooding back to me and I was affected all over again by what He did...for me.

It's good to be reminded of that. I think we forget...