Friday, December 30, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: James

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi 

Anyone who's hung around Beer Lahai Roi for  while knows James is one of my favorite books.  I taught a Bible study for the local Christian Women's Job Corps  site (back when the local folks only had one site) for a couple of years, repeating James for each class (one class referred to me as 'The James Lady'), and it was one of the first Bible studies I did on BLR (see sidebar).  So picking my favorite verse from James is...difficult.

So I am not going to claim today's verse is my absolute favorite from the book.  It is, however, the one that has been repeating itself over and over in my head since I first contemplated picking a passage from James:

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

I picked up The Message last night and read that same passage; it reads like this:

Consider it a sheer gift, my friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don't try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

What hit me from The Message translation is the phrase  'don't try to get out of anything prematurely.'

Put that with the NIV phrase 'Perseverance must finish its work', and I begin to think that the concept I need to try and wrap my brain around is that bad things aren't always bad.  There is a perspective that I cannot see from the midst of a crisis or trial that I have to trust is there; a perspective that shows there is a purpose in the trial.

What I have to do is not try to create a short cut to get out of the trial before that purpose is accomplished, but walk through it.

And be joyful, 'cause there's good coming out of it.  Whether I see it or not.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Faithful Faves - Hebrews

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

(No, I am not going to make the joke about men making coffee...but it's tempting!)

Hebrews is another one of those books that I could spend weeks in, mining nugget after nugget, but I thought I'd pick a verse that my Friends Club girls have to learn when we do the unit on Bible:

For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  -- Heb. 4:12, NIV

As I skimmed through Hebrews, I noted how much Old Testament scripture was quoted, and I frowned a bit as I realized the author didn't always cite the source; sometimes he (she?  I've heard a few opinions that offer Priscilla as a possible author, but, given the social norms of the day, that would be very surprising) doesn't even seem to remember much about the origin of the quote, using phrases like 'someone said' or 'in another place' to introduce the quotes.

But then it hit me...not only the author of Hebrews, but all the New Testament authors had to quote OT Scripture ENTIRELY from memory.

The only copies were kept locked up.

They didn't have a pocket Torah, or an online reference, or Strong's concordance to help them.

Every one of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament was spoken/written from memory.

No wonder the author of Hebrews was less than absolutely precise...and no wonder there is some variation between the actual text in the OT and the quote in the NT.

Let's say you or I had to teach someone about our faith...and we could only use the verses we have committed to memory.  How would we do?

I'm afraid I'd be rather pitiful; I've memorized the same verses in King James, NIV and New King James, due to differences in preferred texts over the years of belonging to different churches; most times a verse comes out a mishmash of all three.  And the reference? I can usually remember what book it's in.  Um, usually.

But look at the power of the word...and how the author of Hebrews builds his arguments from the word that was so obviously part of his very identity.

For some time, I've been feeling that I need to be more intentional about memorizing scripture; this really hammers that point home.

A discipline for 2012.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: Philemon

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

(Just curious...have you been taught to pronounce the name of this short, very personal letter Fie-LEE-mon or FILL-a-mon?  I've heard it both ways... )

I'm tempted to just put the whole book down as my text for the week; it's only 25 verses; it barely runs over one page in my Scofield NIV.  But I will pick one  bit that stands out to me:

If he has done you any wrong or owes you any thing, charge it to me.  I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand.  I will pay it back - v. 18 - 19a

This was a risky undertaking for both Paul and his protegee, Onesimus.  Moral issues of slavery aside, they were dealing with the law of the land.  Both of them put personal safety/freedom/finances at risk to Do the Right Thing under that law.  Paul goes on to exhort his friend Philemon to Do the Right Thing as a believer and follower of Christ...which he had just modeled in taking on Onesimus's debt.

Paul did not ask Philemon to do something costly before he himself set that example.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Past

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

This is a year of transition; I have been minimizing it as 'not that big of a change', but the truth is, as I am finally acknowledging, we have a major transition in the family and I think some of my holiday apathy is directly related to that change.

But as I reflected on that, I realized that the 'traditional Christmas' is something of a myth.

The first Christmas I remember was 1962.  I was 3 years old; my little sister was 1 1/2.    Mom didn't even put up a Christmas tree; our gifts were all on the round coffee table.  In fact, it was years before I realized that memory was actually Christmas.

I remember bits and pieces of the next few Christmases up until the year I was nine, when I figured out that Santa was a story and was mortified, as I had VEHEMENTLY defended Santa to my classmates.  A carelessly hidden gift that year was evidence I couldn't refute. Santa died to me that year.

Christmas magic came back the year I shopped for my siblings and found a perfect top for my sister.  I was in 8th grade when I discovered the joy of giving.

My freshman year of college I was away from home and suffering acutely from homesickness during the Advent season. It was a real joy to come home and see the tree, short and squatty, with GE Lighted Ice Snowball lights and strings of tinsel.  I spent a lot of time sitting in the living room just looking at it.

  (BTW, I wish I could find these lights in some kind of reproduction!  Hint, Hint, Christmas light manufacturers...)

The next year I was home but working full time and not around much; the following year My Future Sweet Baboo and I split Christmas  between our parents (literally; we drove the 3.5 hours from my folks to his on Christmas day; that was a split day any way you look at it) and the following year we instituted the holiday pilgrimage from Alabama to Indiana; 5 years later we actually missed the Hoosier Christmas and stayed home with our week old firstborn but the next year we added the first kid to the holiday pilgrimage and made the trek again, 2 years later we altered our gift giving (because it was STUPID to haul our kids' gifts to Indiana and back just so they could open them on Christmas day).   Through the years we actually stayed in Alabama for Christmas a couple of more times; missing family but enjoying a relaxing break.

I know this is lengthy, but it illustrates my point just a little...Christmas celebrations have always been evolving. There really is no 'Christmas as it used to be', there's only 'Christmas as it was for a few years back in the day'.

I believed in Santa for about 5 years.  That's all.  And I believed longer than most kids.   We had a  marvelous family caroling event for about the first 10  years or so we were married, then it got to be too difficult to coordinate w/far-flung families and their kids.  We actually had 'all ' the family only about 3 times during that period.  We bought gifts for everyone, then we drew names, now we're stuffing each other's stockings.

There are a few elements that have not changed from one Christmas to the next, but it's also true that each Christmas celebration has been unique.  Something has adapted to changes every year.

This year is no different.  We will adapt.  We are moving to a new stage; from kids to married kids to kids with kids to the new stage: inlaws who host kids.  The Parents. 

And, I'll be honest, this year I'm trying to find the things that don't change to give us the foundation for the big changes that have happened.

Because what we do this year will likely set the tone for the way our progeny will look back on Christmas when our grandkids are moving out and they are wishing for Christmas 'the way it used to be.'

Maybe I should hop over to ebay and buy those vintage snowball lights...nah...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Changing the Soundtrack

Posted by Lisa Laree on Beer Lahai Roi

For the most part, I love Christmas music.  I only listen to it between Thanksgiving and Epiphany, so it kind of stays special, but there are a few Christmas songs that just make me cringe.  As in, if the song comes on, I'll turn the radio off or walk out of the store.  Songs in that category include:

The Christmas Shoes
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Happy Christmas

The Christmas Shoes is on that list because it's plot manipulation at its worst...sappy and unbelievable and I CAN'T STAND THAT SONG.

I Want a Hippopotamus is just unbelievably annoying.

However,  John Lennon's Happy Christmas is in a class by itself...a depressing Christmas song. A cynical Christmas song.  An everything-that-Christmas-should-never-be Christmas song.

But guess which song seems to be my silent personal soundtrack this holiday season; the refrain that plays over and over in the back of my head.

So this is Christmas...

I can't seem to hit the eject button.  Because this Christmas just doesn't feel...right.

I've tried a bit to figure out what's going on.  We are not following our typical Christmas pattern this year; we usually travel and visit with family; this year we're staying home.  We are down one young 'un in the house this year; the slow progression to the empty nest has kicked in.  We have a remodeling project that has resulted in a very untidy house and seriously cramped my decorating for the holidays style.  All of which I think is contributing to the refrain.

But, more than that, for some reason I have become hyper aware of the pain of folks around me.  The people that come for help to our church food distribution center; the pleas for help with gifts for children on the church communication cards that we enter each week; the images of emaciated children from Africa.  Orphans in Moldova, foster kids in Alabama...all with needs much greater than mine or any of my family's.  Shopping for gifts...even small ones...for folks who really don't need anything is getting harder each year.  Part of me really wants to take what we spend on family gifts and give it away.

And yet.  Christmas is a family bonding time, and there are those in the family whose love language is gifts.  To tell them they should not give or expect to receive gifts would be cruel.  And I have wonderful memories of both giving and receiving gifts that mean something...should that not be extended to my kids and (future possible) grandkids?

I am struggling to stay focused on the Miracle of Christmas, the Incarnation.  The decorations or lack thereof, the clean or cluttered house, the right or wrong choice of gifts, the Christmas eve service that is more trendy than traditional...none of that affects the Miracle one whit.

God looked at His creation and knew we would not be able to redeem ourselves, and so came to live amongst us and die as one of us so that we could be restored and live with Him.

THAT is Christmas.  Get out of my head, John Lennon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - Titus

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi 

Wow.  Today's verse really grabbed me:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age - Titus 2:11-12, NIV

In the midst of the not-ready-for-the-holiday chaos that I am finding myself in (and, despite the fact that I am not costuming a big production or working many hours on a big project at work, I am farther behind in my holiday preparations this year than I think I have ever been), I need to let the grace of God teach me to say 'No' to those things that are distractions.

 And then I need to be self-controlled enough to stick to that.

Thank God for His grace...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Faithrul Friday Faves - 2 Timothy

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi 

I waffled back and forth between a couple of different verses, but I ultimately picked the one that was the most personally encouraging, as well as one of the most familiar verses from 2 Timothy.

However, I decided to put it together with the preceding verse, not only for context, but because it puts a slightly different slant on it:

For this reason I remind you  to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God did not give us a spirit of  timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline - 2 Tim. 1: 6-7

We often see verse 7 quoted by itself as an encouragement that we should be brave, but verse 6 provides the purpose for such bravery: fanning into flame the gift of God that has been deposited in us.

I'm not going into what the 'gift of God' could mean at this point...what I'm going to focus on is 'fan into flame'...i.e., we have personal responsibility to grow and mature and implement what God has given us.

And that takes some pushing past things.  I like the NIV translation 'timidity'...other versions use 'fear', which is sort of the same thing; the difference, to me, is one of degree. Timidity is not a huge paralyzing fear.  It's a little fear, a hanging-back sort of fear, a let-someone-else-go-first sort of fear.

It is precisely the fear I find myself battling the most.

Lack of confidence, I really hearing God here?

If I fan my gifting into flame...feed it, encourage it, through exercising the self-discipline with love always as my motive (not self-promotion! That Greek word is agape!), I will have power to break through that cowardice and put that gift to work for the kingdom.

(side note: I'll be chaperoning a school trip next Friday, so FFF will pick up in two weeks :-D )

Friday, November 18, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - 1 Timothy

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi 

Today's pick is actually one of the memory verses that my Friends Club girls learn in the course of their three years:

Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love , in faith and in purity - 1 Tim. 4:12, NIV

As I read that this morning, it occurred to me that the word "young" could be replaced by about any adjective pertaining to people groups and the verse would still hold true.  Timothy WAS young for the leadership roles that he had; but he had had Paul for a mentor and was well able to carry that responsibility.

He could not allow himself to be cowed or intimidated by the folks who wanted to discount his authority simply because he was young.

But...look at how he was to handle the situation.  Paul didn't tell him to argue against the prejudices of others, or to take the situation before any type of judge to try and censor that wrong thinking, or to marginalize and belittle those who didn't respect him.  No, Paul told him to set a godly example in all areas of his life regardless of what others thought/said/did.

All of us have things in our past that would, to some,  be disqualifiers for working in the kingdom.  Some of the things may be unavoidable; some may be temporary (Timothy wouldn't be young forever); some may be the result of bad choices or lack of opportunity.

But Paul's instruction is the same regardless of any of that:  Don't let anyone put you down because you [are/have/were/ _______]. Teach believers with your life:  by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.  (The Message)

It's not about being personally validated; it's about modeling the kingdom.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: 2 Thessalonians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi  

Suffering.  End times.  Deception. Apostasy.  Judgment.  Retribution.


A rather prickly book.

And amid all the warnings to and about those who choose disobedience, we see an injunction to folks who are getting tired of fighting the battles.

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. - 2 Thess. 3:13 NKJV

There really isn' t any particular promise or reward associated with that instruction; just an acknowledgement that it is a struggle to maintain a believer's perspective and continuity in word and deed.

But sometimes that acknowledgement, "Don't give're doing good," is enough to keep going. 

I know I needed to hear that today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Holiday Greetings War

I've started getting the annual emails from folks who are upset about the use of the term 'Happy Holidays' in the latter part of the year.

Normally, I just keep my mouth shut about such things but I really want to point something out about the hubbub that's been repeating itself for about 6 years now.

When I was a kid, back in the dark ages before cable TV, let alone the Internet, 'Happy Holidays' was a common wish and I don' t remember anyone raising a fuss about it.  With Christmas and New Year's Day just a week apart, 'Happy Holidays' covered both of them.

And that was when everyone we knew in our little midwest farm community celebrated Christmas.  We were a pretty homogenous bunch.

But society has diversified, and there are people of other religions who do not celebrate Christmas filtering through more and more of our population.  I've even met a few Christians who do not celebrate Christmas (the Pilgrims actually outlawed the observation of Christmas).  While I am heartily inclined to wish any and all a blessed and merry Christmas, it doesn't seem to be wise or courteous to offer such greetings to someone to whom December 25 is just another day.

And, yes, I am well aware that Jesus very likely was not born on December 25.  I understand that early church leaders kind of set that date to assist pagans in leaving their old practices by substituting Christian-related activities for the old ones, and over time many of the old  pagan practices have taken on Christian meanings and been incorporated into the Christmas tradition.  The Christian folks who object to the celebration of Christmas based on those facts do have a point.  I myself sometimes have trouble with the 'Jesus is the Reason for the Season' thinking. Yes, He is the reason I celebrate the season, but folks were celebrating that season in different ways for a long time before Christ was associated with it.  Personally, I don't care so much what date he was born; the fact that he WAS born...that he came for the purpose of redemption and reconciliation, knowing the cost, is enough for me to celebrate and worship.

So, given all of that, how should Christians deal with the increasing secularization of Christmas and the attempts by the retail industry to include (and gain profit from) diverse religious groups who are celebrating holidays other than Christmas during that time of the year?

May I ever so gently suggest that sign-waving, boycotts, and indignant emails may not be the best means of conveying the hope and message of Christmas to folks who Just Don't Get It? 

Because, what is really important in the observation of Christmas anyway?  As the Grinch learned, it isn't the trappings and trees and lights, it's that Christ came to us.  How we treat each other is a greater reflection of that message than how loudly we may declare to the world around us that they should get their secular hands off our religious holiday.

Jesus didn't come so we could have Our Own Religion; he came so that anyone could come to him and find freedom and deliverance and healing and joy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - 1 Thessalonians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Can I be honest?  I'm not entirely comfortable with the passage that stood out to me today as I skimmed 1 Thessalonians; it has such potential to come across so harsh.  I wanted to wimp out and go with something a little safer, but I can't seem to get away with that today, so, well, here goes:

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. - 1 Thess. 4:7 - 8

I mentioned last year  that I read Corrie ten Boom's Tramp for the Lord and was so impressed with the story of her ministry.  One of the things that has stuck with me from the book is that whenever she encountered someone who wanted to argue with her about her stand on moral issues, she'd simply reply that the individual wasn't disagreeing with her, but with God.

The plain truth is that God has given us some pretty clear standards on behavior.  If I point out what God says (and I'm talking about things that are stated to bring judgement and/or to be inappropriate for God's people clearly and plainly in the Bible for all to see), I am not being judgmental.  Judgment is what happens when you look at someone's behavior and make assumptions about their motives and/or intentions. Just repeating God's word about a particular moral issue is not passing judgment. If God says something is wrong, it is wrong.  There's no point in getting angry at a human being for pointing that out.

Because, as 1 Thess. 4:8 shows us, and Corrie ten Boom pointed out, the disagreement isn't with's with God.  Scorning the messenger doesn't change the message, and marginalizing the message doesn't make it go away.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm just along for the ride...

This is one of those days that surprised me every time I turned around.

So of course it's a blog post, but you'll have to bear with me 'cause every one of those turns is like its own little story...except they all go together into one very cool picture of how God does things....

Backstory: this is Tech Week for the one-act competition.  The Flute Player, who currently is not playing her flute anywhere, is playing a villain in their entry.  Due to a change in faculty, and the who-knows-why delays in filling the post, there was no drama teacher in our city theater performance magnet for about the first 6 weeks of school.  The Technical Theater teacher selected a play and began casting it, so when the new teacher arrived he inherited a show that he didn't choose and didn't have a vision in place for, and no time to do anything else. So he went with it. Besides being new to the position, his wife had a baby a couple of weeks ago and he had a car wreck a week ago that cracked some ribs.  So I am cutting him much slack in that I didn't get any word on any costuming help needed until Friday last week...and that was only Rebekah's costume.  I got her jacket altered but didn't get the pants hemmed, then yesterday I got asked to also alter a pair of pants worn by the lead and a dress worn by the Femme Fatale character.  I took the pants, but asked him to see if he could please get someone else to do the was bias poly charmeuse (beastly fabric) and needed pretty extensive alterations and I just didn't feel like I had time to do it.  He said he'd try, but didn't sound hopeful.

So I fixed up both pairs of pants last night, and took them to work with me so that I could run them over to school about lunch time.  I decided that if no one had been able to do the dress I'd just have to take it home and make up my work hours later in the week, as there IS a performance on Thursday.  But I wasn't happy about that; it was really an intimidating project.

Now, on the way to work I pass by a building that is used by a non-Christian religious group as an educational/prayer center, and every time I drive by I shake my head and, to be honest, pray a prayer for those folks.  Today was no different in that respect, but today I happened to read (again) their invitation to 'come pray with us!' and suddenly heard in my spirit 'These people pray earnestly without knowing Me, but those called by My Name are a prayerless people".  Now, I know those folks pray from religious compulsion, but they do pray.  By comparison, most Christians DO have a much more casual attitude about prayer.  It convicted me and I pondered my own inconsistent prayer life as I drove to church for, of all things, weekly staff prayer.

I got my desk Bible and journal and headed to the sanctuary and found a seat, pondering the difference between last week, when I  went to staff prayer earnestly expecting to hear from God, and this morning, when I was all in a swivet about possibly having to rearrange my work week to fix a dress I wasn't sure I could fix.  I was really having trouble focusing...should I take the dress and do my best?  Or just stand my ground that I really couldn't give it the time it needed to be done right?  But what would they do for a costume for that character?  And so I waffled. 

But as I struggled with what I should do, one of the verses that I almost picked for the FFF verse from Colossians came to mind...and I took it as a direction and decided to look it up and record it. But when I flipped to Colossians, my eyes landed on 4:2 : Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

 That didn't seem coincidental to me; I wrote that verse down, then wrote down the verse I was looking for to begin with (3:17, if you're curious) just as our Senior Pastor called us together for corporate prayer.
And he began to pray, and suddenly was praying passionately that we would all get a burden and anointing for prayer and pray without ceasing.  He prayed in that vein for several minutes before moving on...and I was so impressed by the three reminders to that we are to pray that I stopped him in the hallway later than morning to share them.

I worked at my desk for an hour, then headed over to the school to take in the altered pants and find out if I had to sew the dress or not....and the answer was not!  Someone else took it!  I went back to work with a huge sense of relief...and found a discussion under way about some missing stage drapes.  Our pastors' daughter is getting married this week, and some of the drapes they were planning to use for stage decor are not in their place.  My sewing buddy Miss A  indicated that we might have to do some replacement sewing in a hurry.  Well, at least that would be something I knew I could do...but, the decision was to continue to look for the missing drapes...they were last seen in February and had to be around someplace.

I finished my workday and headed off to get The Flute Player from her bus.  While I was waiting in the parking lot for the bus to pull in, I got a phone call from our Senior Co-pastor (that would be our pastor's wife, who also serves as senior pastor...husband/wife teams at our church).  She said she had a big favor to ask of me and...I mentally began thinking how much fabric I would need to pick up at Hancock's and when I would get the panels serged....could I please teach her study class tonight?  Wedding preparations had become undelagateable and were multiplying rapidly.

That was NOT what I expected to hear.  I didn't know I was on the substitute teacher list.  I'd lost track of which chapters of our current book (The Cry God Hears, by Barbara Yoder) we'd covered in class, since were were only loosley following the  topics.  We decided I should cover chapters 7 and 8, more or less, then let the ladies break up into discussion groups. 

The Flute Player got off the bus and we headed home...we had 45 minutes before we had to leave the house to get her to school in time to get into costume and for me to head on to church.

And she wanted me to help her with her gangsterish accent (think of the head weasel in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit') in the time we had available. I picked up my book to remind myself of the topics in chapter 7 and 8 (and thanked God for prompting me to read ahead earlier in the week), and found that chapter 7 talked about positioning oneself for kingdom use and chapter 8 was about...travailing in prayer. 

Wow.  So prayer was to be tonight's emphasis.  I scribbled some really rough notes, then talked like a New York gangster for all the way to school to get her used to it, scooted over to church and picked up the sign in sheet, then headed down to our meeting room.

And spent the next hour and a half pretty much only touching my notes now and again.  That was the largest group of adults I'd ever stood before to teach.  And I only sorta know what I said.  I just pray that God anointed their ears so that they heard what He intended, even if it wasn't exactly what I said.

I did, however, end with a challenge to set aside some time to pray.  Which I OBVIOUSLY need to make sure I do...I've been told often enough today...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: Colossians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I've changed my mind on my Colossians selection a couple of times, and thought I had finally picked one and pulled up the New Post screen to elaborate.

And happened to turn the page, and my eyes lit on different verse, and it has become today's choice:

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form - Col. 2:9 NIV

That kinda settles it, doesn't it?  'All the fullness of the Deity' --- God Himself, in all His fullness, walking around as a human.

We can accept that or reject that, but it isn't a statement subject to relative interpretation.  It's not something that can be partly, sortakinda true.  He's fully God...or not.

But it's a basic thing to be settled; a foundation of faith.  For someone to claim to follow Christ and disagree with Colossians 2:9 doesn't make sense.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paradigm shift

Tuesdays are staff prayer days.  Being a part time employee, I tended to come in after that hour that begins the work day, but The Actor, who is in the internship program at church, must be there to attend, so I've been profiting from the disciplinary nudge to not let Tuesday morning slip away.  It's usually half an hour of personal prayer/reflection/quiet time, followed by about a half an hour of joint prayer with an exhortation from one of the pastors.

Now, there have been a number of things over the past month or so that has stirred up my unusual take on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids ;one message/study after another has discussed it.  So it has all been raked over and I've been pondering it and pondering it and I felt like I was on the edge of something profound, but I didn't really have the time to sit down and pursue it.

But I knew that when I got to the sanctuary for prayer I'd have some time to chase down the revelation that I was glimpsing around the corners.

And as I was heading down the hall, Bible and journal in hand, I suddenly thought of another parable on that I'd almost linked up in my listening to the Parable of the Bridesmaids before, but somehow just missed the connection.  That would be the story of Elisha and the Widow's Oil , found in 2 Kings 4.  I posted about that in one of my early Friday Flashback posts , and actually slightly referenced that post in the discussion of the Bridesmaid's parable, but I didn't really put them together until I sat down this morning and began to write.

In 2 Kings, the widow's oil (blessing/anointing) was miraculously multiplied to fill all the capacity she'd built up when no oil was flowing....the preparation she'd made when nothing was happening.

In Matthew 25, the foolish bridesmaids left their post so that their lack of preparation would not be obvious to everyone, and consequently missed the bridegroom's arrival and were shut out of the celebration.

I suddenly saw that true preparation happens when there's nothing going on; no indication that the preparation will be necessary or even beneficial.  I also saw that the amount of preparation determines the blessing...and that lack of preparation will create the situation in which we must choose to admit our unpreparedness and suffer the accompanied humiliation OR try to cover up the error and make hasty preparations at the last minute that won't work.

So I asked God what constitutes my preparation...increasing my capacity and filling it full to be ready.

And the response I got was that I must learn to hear, recognize and act upon His voice.

Now, none of this was truly new revelation.  I have pondered all of it at various times and ways, but not all in the same context.  But, for whatever reason, something in me shifted.

More than anything, I want to be the person who hears and responds to the Spirit.  All the time.

And that's not new, either, but I got a teeny glimpse of what it would be like to truly live that way.  And it took my breath away...because I saw it.  And maybe for the first time, I truly grasped that it is what God wants for me, too.

All year I have talked about sensing a deep transformation.  If /when this works its way though, it will be transforming...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - Philippians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

How funny is it that I posted a verse from Philippians yesterday?? I totally spaced that Philippians was this week's FFF book.

Good thing Philippians is chock-full of noteworthy nuggets, eh?

I actually memorized Phil. 2: 1- 11 a number of years ago just because it's one of my most favorite (as opposed to simply favorite, you know) scriptures.  What a challenge to have the same attitude as Jesus.

But I'm picking a different verse this morning...and, once more, the closest Bible happens to be a New King James, so that's the version I'm using:

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure - Phil 2:13

I *love* this verse!  It was years and years ago that it first hit me and I went back and re-read it to see if it said what I thought.

It did and it does.

See, we, as fallen humans, don't necessarily WANT to do what is good and right and in line with God's plan.  But this verse encourages me so much, because it says that as I work out my salvation (that's from the previous verse, which I probably should've included in the quote but didn't), God works in me so that my WANT TO changes.  He changes my self-centered WANT TO so that I start to WANT TO do the things that please Him, and then He also works in my life to enable me to do those very things.

God does not throw down a list of  Do's and Don'ts and then stand over us to see if we'll live up to that; He is constantly and consistently working in us so that we not only do His pleasure, but find it satisfying as well...because it becomes the very thing we wanted all along.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I *Can*

I was folding laundry this morning, not thinking of anything in particular, when suddenly this thought popped into my head:

If you say you can't, you won't.
Wow, I thought, that's pretty profound.

So I posted it to Facebook and went back to folding laundry.

But it has been percolating in the back of my head, and now I'm wondering why that particular phrase came so clearly right at this moment.

Could it be that God is about to ask me to do something to which my first gut reaction is going to be a solid, 'I can't do that!'

When really, what I'll mean is, I don't WANT to do that.

Because it's too hard, it's too scary, it's not my gifting...whatever.

And maybe, just maybe, that little thought dropped into my head so that I could be ready with the Right Answer:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me  (Phil 4:13 NKJV)

Or maybe it was just a nice Thought for the Day.

We'll see.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - Ephesians

I had a hard time making a selection this time!  I read through Ephesians in my New King James, and saw several things that were worth discussing, but nothing that stood out exceptionally from the rest.

So I decided I'd go out of the box and read through Ephesians in the Message.  Wow.  Nothin' like the Message to make you see things just a little differently....but, still, I didn't find Today's Passage.

So I got my teaching Bible, the good ol' NIV.  Maybe because I wasn't reading the whole book through at that moment, the first passage my eyes lit upon when I flipped to Ephesians gripped my spirit;  this has been a recurring theme in my life this year and I still don't think I've made the proper adjustments:

Be very careful, then, how you live -- not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.  -- Eph. 5:15 - 17

If no one else out there in bloggy-land needed that nudge, I did...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: Galatians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Ah, Galatians. The futility of human effort and the balm of grace.  Several years ago, I did a small living-room women's Bible study.  The first book we looked at was James, and when we decided to do another study, I chose Galatians.  A balance, if you will, between doing and receiving.

There are a number of passages that are worth discussing, but the one I chose today is one that has been highlighted to me literally ever since I did that Galatians study so long ago. It *always* jumps off the page at me, regardless of what translation I'm reading.

I've got New King James in front of me this morning, and the verse is Galatians 5:16:

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Short and simple, but what a punch it packs.

There are two things that this verse always brings to consideration to me.  The first is that the 'lust of the flesh' isn't always what you think.

The word 'lust' brings connotations of drunkenness, immorality, debauchery...but the truth is, it just means 'consuming desire.'  We tend to forget that our 'flesh'...the selfish, sin-prone human nature...lusts for many things besides physical pleasure.  Sometimes that lust takes the form of  self-promotion (guilty), passing judgement on other folks (also guilty),  repeating a juicy bit of gossip (um, yeah, that one too); getting fed up with perceived injustices and telling someone off (who, me?)... I can pretty much sum it up as just a choice to do what I choose to do instead of what I know God desires for me to do in a given situation.

The other thing that hits me is walking in the spirit WILL offend my flesh.

This verse doesn't tell us that walking in the Spirit will REMOVE the lust of the flesh, it promises that walking in the Spirit will NOT fulfill those cravings that the flesh experiences.  In other words, there's going to be a continual battle between the two.  And you'd better believe that my flesh screams like a tantrumming two year old when its desires are denied.

But I cling to the promise that as I seek to walk more and more in the Spirit, I will be more and more able to ignore those tantrums and tell my flesh to speak to the hand, 'cause I ain't listening...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thinking the Unthinkable

At the start of the year, I put everything on the table and told God He could remake me however I needed to be remade.  I didn't want to keep anything that is not promoting the kingdom.  I didn't want to get hung up on a good thing so much that I missed the great thing, the God thing.

It has taken me this long to get around to the issue of blogging. 

I've been doing it for a while now; nearly 6 years on Sew Random and three and  half or so here.

I'm a blog advocate.  I think it's a great way to have conversations with folks who don't happen to be close by.  It's a wonderful way to exchange ideas.  For the sewing blog, it's a wonderful resource. 

Blogs can also offer accountability.  My over indulgence in fabric purchases this year is right out on my sidebar on the sewing blog for everyone to see.  The weekly 'Friday Faves' series is keeping me progressing through the a high altitude and with great speed, true, but progressing nonetheless.

But I am finding less and less time for blogging.  With the sewing blog, I have a source for material...every time I make something or do anything related to garment construction, I have a blog post.

With the faith blog, it's different.  It requires a much higher level of self-introspection and a much higher level of transparency and vulnerability.  It also has a greater potential for offending other folks.

Tread deep but tread lightly...

And, I'll be honest.  This is not to whine or complain, it's just the truth.  I don't have a big readership.  I'm not sure how many folks are subscribed and so don't show up on the bloglines counts, but judging by the comments left, there aren't many.

Or maybe I just don't write the kind of posts that inspire comments.

Whatever.  I'm in a place now where I'm trying to evaluate my it really something I need to keep doing?  Or has it run its course?  Do I need to focus on something else?

I'd miss blogging terribly if I quit.  If no one else gets anything from my posting, sometimes I go back and re-read the old posts and get something that I needed.   I'm not really feeling 'discouraged and ready to quit'...but I am wondering if the lack of feedback/participation/audience is just an  indication that this isn't the time or place I'm supposed to be.

I'm not going to make a hasty decision on this, but the truth is, if I put everything on the table...well, everything means everything. 

So, while I'm not making plans to quit...I am beginning to consider the possibility that it could be Time. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: 2 Corinthians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

 There is so much in this little book; I've got it all marked up with notes scribbled all over the place.  So you can imagine that I had a difficult time choosing just one passage.

But, as usual my current set of circumstances and personal battles colors my choice and after some deliberation I decided to go with some good instruction on spiritual warfare...and found myself getting educated in the process.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,  and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  - 2 Cor. 10: 3 - 5

I think we have forgotten how to do spiritual warfare; in many cases Christians are encouraged to do battle with worldly powers in 'the only language they understand' ...usually economic.  I am not going to argue against such tactics, because there are a number of organizations/businesses who spend their profits in ways I do not support and so choose to take my business elsewhere, but I do not believe such things are ultimately successful in making long term changes.

If we use the world's weapons we will only achieve such victories as the world provides.  If we want true, Godly victories, then we must engage those weapons that are not those of the world.

And the first place to apply those weapons is to our own thinking.  We cannot wield the weapons of God in battles until we have first used them on our personal battleground and learned to demolish the strongholds in our own lives.

Because once I've seen those personal strongholds fall, how can I doubt God can bring down the ones in the world around me?

I don't know about you, dear reader, but this is a new revelation of this passage to me and I'm going to be chewing on it for a while...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reaching for Normal

We are coming up on two weeks after the Wedding, and today was actually the very first day I got to spend at home. You can imagine the mountain of laundry that has been accumulating while I've been trying to catch up stuff away from the house...I worked extra last week, and then we had our Girl's Ministries Sponsor Retreat last weekend at a Presbyterian camp about an hour away. A bridal shower for another couple at church Sunday afternoon/evening and then bam! Back to work again.

So the laundry has been the focus of the day. And I've been mentally trying to write a blog post about the weekend. I'm not having great inspiration about how to share it; but, since sometimes the best thing to do is to just start writing, I'm gonna give it a go anyway.

I went to the retreat absolutely running on fumes. It was all I could do to get out the door. I wore my grungy track pants and t shirts and took no makeup or jewelry. On purpose. Because I wasn't even gonna try to be something I wasn't. What I WAS was dead tired. Not so much physically as spiritually and emotionally. I was almost to the point of fighting tears as I drove up the Parkway towards church Friday afternoon. It wasn't that I didn't want to go...I was just so tired. And I knew we were going to be doing some sharing and some creative fun stuff and and I didn't feel like I had anything to offer. It didn't even feel like the retreat was part of my world...I was dealing with so much stuff that it sort of felt peripheral.

I'm sure some of the 'stuff' was just the normal emotional bottoming out after any major life event, but somehow I seem to have put my foot in my mouth more than is typical for me (and unfortunately that seems to be very typical...) last week and I just felt out of sorts with, well, everyone, pretty much. My usual feelings of blundering about saying and doing the worst possible things at the worst possible moments. Feeling that the dreams of my heart were trivial to just about everyone else in my world. I really just wanted to crawl in a hole and stay there for a few days. But I knew I couldn't. And I knew I couldn't go to the retreat in wet blanket mode, either. I needed to shift gears.

At first it was just a teeth-gritting act of spirit over flesh. I WILL rejoice in the God of my salvation! I WILL...I WILL ... I WILL! But as the weekend progressed, it became less an enforced attitude and more of a going with the flow. Even feeling sort of numb in the core of my spirit, I found myself being happy on the surface. It was fun. I could connect on that level and not worry about the underneath.

But Saturday morning I had a bit of a revelation that I'm going to try and share. The camp that we went to had a 'Prayer Labyrinth.' I've heard of these, but I'd never seen one, so I was rather surprised to see the little sign for the labyrinth next to a lawn area as we pulled into the parking lot. There were some surprised/ puzzled comments from others in the van, but I remembered reading an article in the newspaper about them a few years ago that said the purpose wasn't necessarily a new-agey sort of spiritualism, but actually meant simply for contemplation. I thought I'd go take a look at it while we were there if I could, and then promptly forgot all about it.

After our morning devotions the next day, we were told to go off by ourselves for an hour or so with journals and Bibles. Most of the ladies headed out the back of the building towards the lake; I decided to go out the front door. I wasn't sure where I'd head, but once I got out the door I saw a park bench off in the lawn area to the side of the parking lot, so I headed that way. It wasn't until I got right to the edge of the lawn that I saw the sign again that said this was the way to the prayer labyrinth. I still didn't intend to walk through the labyrinth; that wasn't why I went over there. But after about a half hour or so with my journal, I thought I'd at least take a look at it. The grass was just tall enough that I couldn't really see the pavers that outlined the path. The entrance was very close to the bench, as it turned out, and rather spontaneously I went in.

I walked slowly, paying attention. What was the lesson I was supposed to learn? The path went almost straight to the center, but just before it got there it doubled back and began to twist and turn, slowly working its way to the outermost ring before turning back to the center again. The pavers were not highly visible, but I deliberately watched just in front of my feet, trying not to anticipate where the next turn would lead. Once I got to the middle, I looked around. I couldn't discern the way out. Once more, once I left the center, the path went very quickly to the most remote point and then wound its way back to almost the center before exiting.

I think it took me about half an hour to follow the path to the center and back out. And I saw that I didn't have to see where the path was going at every moment; I could trust that it would take me to the destination. Furthermore, I saw that what looked like something that went quickly to the destination didn't, and what seemed to be heading away from the goal was actually moving me toward it. Somehow, that touched that raw place in my spirit and brought peace. Nothing in my circumstances changed, but I had a very tangible reminder that I really *don't* know where I am; I have to trust God to direct my path...and that it doesn't matter how far away from the desires of my heart I seem to be, the next turn in that path may bring me right to them. It's a matter of trust.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: 1 Corinthians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Based on the events of the last week, involving a wedding and lots of thoughts of love and fidelity and romance, I'd pretty well decided on a selection from chapter 13 for today's post.  But I skimmed through the book just the same and, while I'm sticking with my original passage, I just have to comment that the book of 1 Corinthians is amazingly applicable to today.  I was really struck by the whole tone of the book and its rather strong words to believers who use the ungodly society around them as their model to determine their actions and attitudes. Wow.

Now, the Princess did not use this passage in her wedding; I had it printed on the programs in ours.  And whenever the subject comes up in the teen girls' classes I teach at church, I point out that this contains an EXCELLENT description of what love is and how it behaves.

Ladies, I say, any time you have some smooth talking young man declaring his love for you, please line his actions up against this passage and see if he is telling you the truth.

If I had done that in my late teens I could've saved myself much anguish, not to mention wasted time, as the longest-running relationship of my high school/ early college days lacked at LEAST half of these characteristics. Ahem.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.   - 1 Cor. 13: 4 - 8a

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thoughts on the Week

AS this is the week of the Princess's Wedding, I suppose it's appropriate that I have Some Thoughts.

Whilst I am wrangling that 'simple' dress I'm hoping to wear for the ceremony...that should have been in the 'done' column but has turned into a major exercise of patience...I'm thinking and reflecting.

Maybe I should be paying more attention to my sewing.  Perhaps then I wouldn't have to have removed one side of the zipper, untwist the dress at the shoulder, and then re-apply that side of the zipper.  But who knows?  I admit to being somewhat less than fully focused.  I have other things occupying my thoughts, I fear.

She's 25 years old; that's definitely not too young; I should have had plenty of time to prepare for this day, right?

When my mother asked me about getting ready for her to move out, I commented that she really isn't home much now anyway; this just means she'll be sleeping and doing her laundry elsewhere.  And hopefully my Chobani yogurt will quit disappearing from the fridge.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Truth is, she's moved out 3 times before.  Every fall for Master's Commission, she'd pack up and leave and tell me that she was going to stay in the apartment the next summer.

But I knew she didn't have the financial wherewithal to make that happen.  So when she left, I knew she'd be back.

This time, she's not coming back. 

It could be worse; their apartment is just on the other end of town.  When I got married, I moved 400 miles away.  I won't be leaving the light on for her at night now, but they're still gonna be around for probably at least one meal a week.  I've never been geographically close to any family since I got married; I don't have a paradigm for it.  I guess we'll just make it up as we go.

But I'm finding myself truly amazed at how quickly we have arrived at this point...for all that it's been more than 25 years since we first held her.  I'm remembering so many parenting things I did wrong, and so few that I feel confident I did right.  So many things we wanted to do as a family that just didn't happen.  Part of me wants to holler 'Wait!  I'm not done yet!'

Doesn't matter.  She's done.  And in a wee couple of days she'll have a new name and a new home and a new life.  This is the goal of raising see them flutter out of the nest to their place in the world.  A lovely wedding ceremony -- be it big and fancy or small and intimate-- is both an invocation and a benediction.

So as the final preparations are upon us, Lord, let me do what's crucial and not sweat what isn't.

And please, please help me hold it together and not be a big snotty mess on Saturday.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

She Rev - Glory

Tonight was the leadership session for this year's women's conference, which starts tomorrow morning (side note:  since the next two weekends are busy busy busy, I will be taking a two-week break from the Faithful Friday posts...I'll be back w/ 1 Corinthians on the 23rd).

It might sound weird to have a session for the leadership, but when leadership teams from all the various ministries at all four campuses got together, we had 150 - 200  (ok, I'm horrible at estimating; it probably wasn't even close to 150.  Let's just say a whole bunch of) ladies.

And I know I, for one, needed some knocking into shape before I put on the 'Leader' badge in the morning to do ministry.

I've been somewhat distracted coming up on this conference; usually I'm all anticipation and preparation.  Three years ago I even blogged a Bible study as preparation.

But...this year...I'm still having some health issues that are taking more of my focus than I'd like, the home repairs are waiting insurance feedback, and we do have a wedding in, um, 9 days, for which I am woefully unready.

So, like I said, I've been distracted.

But tonight we heard from Dr. Mary Ann Brown, and, wow.

Where is your altar? She asked us.  The place of sacrifice and communion with God...does it need to be rebuilt?

In a word...yes...

 If tonight was any indication of what is to come, I believe the next couple of days are going to be intense.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Faithful Faves: Romans

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Sigh. I think I could do a 'Friday Faithful Faves' on every chapter  in Romans.  Picking one from the whole

I remember doing Romans in Bible Study Fellowship a number of years ago; I was really looking forward to the study, but it was tough.  I felt like I'd been pushed through a Play Doh Fun Factory by the time it was over.  Romans is a deep and challenging word.

But, it just so happens that, if I had to pick ONE verse from the whole Bible, my favorite 'verse to live by' is in Romans:

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.   -- Rom. 12:2

What a challenge...and what a promise.

One of the biggest questions of every believer is 'What is God's will?' when making decisions.

The secret to finding God's will is in that verse: Don't conform to the standards of the society around you, but let the spirit transform your mind  (and I would run over to Philippians chapter 2 for a discussion of  what our mind is to be transformed into, but that's outside the scope of today's discussion...).

The problem is that we tend to want to maintain our conformity with our society.  We don't want to stick out, be conspicuous, look uneducated or narrow minded.

Romans 12:2 pretty well tells us that we can't make that work if we really want to know God's will.  He WILL make us stick out, be conspicuous, have opinions that are scoffed at by others.

But, if we let Him transform us, guess what?  All the opinions of others won't matter...because we'll be able to see what HE wills for us.

A good verse to keep in mind...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September! AAAiiiieee!

Sara at The Cleft of the Rock has set herself a challenge to blog every day in September.  At first, I thought, 'What a great idea! A post a day for a month! It would get me back into the pattern of Paying Attention!'

And then I remembered....this is September. The Princess's wedding is the 17th. My house is a mess; her veil isn't started yet, and I haven't even pulled the pattern for my dress out of the package. Just when do I think I'm going to have time to write a post in any given day??? Maybe I'll shoot for a post a day in October...

Oh, BTW, has anyone else switched to Blogger's new interface?? Took me forever to realize I had to click on the little pencil icon to write a new post....sad...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Helping with the Research

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Lysa TerKeurst has asked for input for her upcoming book. Technically, these questions were supposed to be answered in her comments, but, well, I didn't want to fill up a whole comments page by myself...

How would you define unglued?

I'm going to define it this way:Unglued-- losing the restraints that keep one's behavior reasonable and acceptable to oneself and/or one's peers

What does coming unglued look like for you?
For me, there are degrees of 'unglued'...sometimes it's a full-fledged raging temper tantrum (usually involving repeated irresponsibility or disobedience on the part of one or more of my children), but more commonly it's a word unfitly spoken, devoid of grace or empathy when I feel I've been judged, unappreciated or marginalized.

What factors contribute to you feeling unglued?
Fatigue, being taken by (unpleasant) surprise, being pressed for time or pressured into agreeing to something I do not feel I've had time to process and think through. Frustration at not being heard. Particularly if several of those conditions occur at the same time.

Do you tend to explode or stuff? I rarely explode anymore; I am learning better ways of handling the bad stuff. But when I do explode, it's a doozy that leaves me feeling like a humiliated failure. Mostly, now, I stuff. Stuffing is not necessarily bad if it can be worked through at a later time, but if it isn't dealt with it will become fodder for the explosion.

What would you want to make sure I cover in a book like this? How to repair the damage after the glue has failed...I have a hard time getting back to comfortable around folks to whom I have exposed my less admirable traits.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
There is some small comfort in knowing that we all mess up from time to time, but it doesn't really help alleviate the humiliation of having to own my character flaws in front of other people. Thank God for those mercies that are new every morning...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Faithful Faves: Acts

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I *love* the book of Acts. So much good stuff to choose from...but I landed on this little narrative and it made me smile. So this is what I've selected:

Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed that she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, 'Peter is at the door!'

'You're out of your mind,' they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, 'It must be his angel.'

But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. -- Acts 12:13 - 17a

There is so much in this whole story...which sadly begins with the beheading of John's brother, James...but I'm going to focus on this bit of it, because it always struck me funny that the believers did not believe Rhoda when she came and told them that the answer to their prayers was standing on the front porch. Nobody even went to see, until they heard his continued knocking.

I've talked before about the Hebrew scholars who wouldn't check out the Magi's story at the birth of Christ, because he didn't come as they expected, but, see, in this instance faithful, praying followers of Christ wouldn't even walk to the door to see if Rhoda was right.

Why? Because they expected the answer to come in a different way

The folks gathered at John Mark's mother's house knew Peter was chained to guards and locked in prison; I really think the focus of their prayers was for God to move miraculously on the trial the next day.

But how much cooler was God's answer to their prayers for Peter??

I need to learn not to limit God with my preconceived expectations.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Still Congested

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Third service today ended at about 1:00, and we had a baptismal service afterward.

7 hours later, my semi-closed sinuses and puffy eyes are reminders of how moving that service was.

Philip Cameron and a boatload of older teens rescued from the streets of Moldova made their annual appearance at church today; they come over during the summer and visit all the churches that support the work over there.

But we were privileged to see eleven of the young people baptized after 3rd service.

Now, in the U.S., it's usually not such a big deal. Oh, folks are happy enough, but for these kids it's different.

It's making a huge statement. Families disown kids who receive baptism. So each of these kids were very aware that they were breaking traditions; they were all somber and deliberate.

Out Pastor always gives baptismal candidates the opportunity to share anything before they're baptized. Most folks smile and shake their heads; a few make a short statement into the microphone. But each one of these kids took the microphone and declared their thanks to the Camerons, for bringing them the opportunity to hear about Jesus, and then they declared their love for Christ and their intention to follow him with all their heart.

Totally spontaneous. Unbelievably moving. Humbling beyond words.

I'm going to be reflecting over this for a long, long time.

Here's a bit of their story, a video shown today in church:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: John

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

John. Today's book is John.

Picking one passage from John is like walking into Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory and choosing ONE delectable to sample.

So, I'm going to go with the one thing that dropped into my spirit the moment I realized John was up this week:

Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?"

Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."

Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."

Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows you will disown me three times!

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be where I am." - John 13:36 - 14:3

The last time I did a deep study of the book of John, the context of that passage really struck me. Often we split the story at the end of chapter 13 -- when Jesus declares that Peter will deny him -- and pick up the next time with the lovely promises of chapter 14 and never realize that they go together. Those chapter-and-verse breaks make the Bible easy to reference and study, but it does disrupt continuity at times. We forget that.

Jesus just told Peter that he was about to fail the biggest test of his faith to date, and then says, in effect, 'Don't worry about it'.

It's all part of the same speech. Jesus didn't hesitate or change the subject. He dropped his bombshell, offered comfort, and then answered the original question.

In some odd way, I find this passage comforting. Peter failed...but he repented. None of the promises Jesus gave him were invalidated because of his failure.

I've failed, many times. I stagger under the weight of my failure. I'm quite sure that there are people who discredit anything I would say/do for the cause of Christ because of my past failure. And, to be honest, I would sacrifice much for the opportunity to go back and un-fail any one of those moments. But I can't.

But I can repent; renounce my stupidity and my self-centeredness and my pride and learn to recognize similar situations so I will not fail in that way again.

And I can cling to Jesus words "Do not let your heart be troubled."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: Luke

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I hesitated over two or three passages...and a couple of recurring I skimmed through Luke, but the one that got my attention was a familiar story with a note I wrote beside it. I can't remember if I made the observation or if I was listening to someone who made the observation, but it started some wheels turning so it's today's pick:

"You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"

"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him , "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. - Lk 18: 20 - 23

The note in my margin is next to verse 20 and it points out that the commandments Jesus listed were the ones that had to do with how people interact with one another. Of the rest, one is about attitude ('Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor') and the other four are about our relationship to God ('Do not worship anything in the place of God, do not make idols for yourselves, do not misuse the name of the Lord and keep the Sabbath holy')

Remember, Jesus has said that the two great commandments are 'Love God' and 'Love your neighbor'. He put the question to the rich fellow about loving his neighbor...and the ruler was quite happy to respond that he'd been doing that his whole life.

But, when Jesus pointed out that he missed the first commandment - Love God with everything you've got - the guy was hit with grief.

Because when it came down to it...he couldn't part with his possessions to give God first place.

And I don't think he realized it until that precise moment.

We all have those pivotal moments when God speaks to us...could be in any number of ways...and we see in a flash that we had no idea what was really going on.

And, at that moment, we have a choice: Continue with the status quo, and go no further with Christ, or give up the thing that is distracting/consuming us and follow Him.

I've had mini-moments like that...and sometimes I've chosen rightly, and sometimes I have not.

The grief of missing the opportunity has ALWAYS been greater than the grief of giving up the distraction. You'd think I'd learn.

Fortunately, His mercies are new every morning. Someday, I will have learned...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - Mark

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I told you I'm stuck in a time warp; I just realized that today is Friday...time to look through Mark...

Maybe it's a symptom of my current state, but two verses jumped out at me and, since they are somewhat related, I'm going to use both of them.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. - Mk 1:35

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." - Mk 6:31

A number of years ago, the big thing in youth ministry was WWJD, which stood for 'What Would Jesus Do?'

There were WWJD bracelets, mugs, notebooks, name it. All aimed at getting kids to stop and ask themselves 'What would Jesus do?' when faced with a decision.

But there is a subtle deception in that question, which is this:

It assumes that we can figure out, using human reasoning, what course of action Jesus would take in a similar situation and then do that.

The problem is...Jesus often defied human reasoning in his actions. He did not do what made sense. So how can we, using our reasoning abilities, figure out what Jesus would do?

See, if you study the Gospels, you'll see that Jesus didn't figure out what he was gonna do in any situation, either. He just did what he saw his Father doing.

And the way he could tell that was he cultivated such a close relationship with the Father that he knew what the Father was doing.

He went off by himself and prayed. Often. Sometimes all night.

I submit to you that we can't really do what Jesus would do in a particular situation unless we have first done what Jesus did on a regular basis: spend quality time building our relationship with the Father and the Spirit.

Which is why the second verse speaks so loudly to me today.'s in the middle of the business that Jesus told the disciples to come away with him. Not when things settled down, not when the business was finished, but right there, while the people were still coming and going.

Anybody wanna say 'Ouch!' with me? I have a really, really hard time stopping in the middle of the busy and going away with him.

And it's been worse this summer. But I do hear that voice...Come with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Caught in a Time Warp

Whilst reading through the posts on my facebook wall, I chanced across a post that mentioned a major league baseball team being eliminated from post-season play.

"Whoa," I thought, "How can anyone be eliminated so early?"

I took a second trying to place myself on the calendar...feeling rather early-Juneish.

I had a dizzy moment when I realized it is August and school starts Monday.


There have been summers that zipped by in the past, but nothing like this summer. How can time move so fast all of a sudden??

I recently saw a news story which stated that a group of scientists had absolutely proven time travel/ travel faster than the speed of light is impossible. After seeing this summer evaporate in a twinkle, I'm wondering if they didn't miss something in their computations...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Magnify the Lord!

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Sometimes the oddest little remark starts a chain reaction...

This morning, my pastor said something about magnifying the Lord. He was talking about whether we would consider God to be larger than our problems/issues or consider our problems/issues to be larger than God, but the word 'magnify' started a little thought process that ended up with the Hubble Telescope.

So of course I thought it would be good blog material.

The first thing I did was come home and look up 'magnify' in my NIV Exhaustive concordance.

And was surprised to find only one listing:

The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. - Dan. 11:36

Wow...we could spend some time on that, but it's another topic for another day. I wanted to know where the phrase 'magnify the LORD' came from; I've heard it over and over for years and years, but I hadn't ever traced it to its source.

Next stop: King James. Or, rather, New King James. I followed my hunches and, sure enough, in Luke 1:46 I found My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior leading off Mary's song of praise.

So I pulled out the Zhodiates Word Study and looked it up, and found that magnifies is translated from megaluno: from megas to make (or declare) great, i.e., increase or (fig.) extol:-- enlarge, magnify, shew great

Megaluno is also found in:
Matt. 23:5 - "But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments."

Luke 1:58 - When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.

Acts 5:13 - Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly

Acts 10:46 - For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God

Acts 19:17 - This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

2 Cor. 10:15 - not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men's labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere

and Phil. 1:20 - According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

I want to say there is a reference to magnifying the Lord in Psalms...but it's obviously not in the NIV, and my KJV exhaustive concordance is in a box in the attic somewhere. A VERY quick skim through Psalms didn't yield a 'magnify' reference, so I'm going to say that the basic reference to 'magnify the Lord' must be from Mary's Song (AKA 'The Magnificat').

But, be that as it may, it's not the origin of the phrase I'm looking's the application.

Our common connotation to 'magnify' is 'to enlarge, to make something small appear big' (that's just my quickie definition). That is, we generally think of something small that we need to enlarge to see clearly.

But I submit to you that something small is not the only thing we magnify in today's world.

We also magnify things that are astronomically huge...because we are too far away to see them properly.

Instead of making something bigger, magnification, in this sense, means to see something as it really is.

Here is where I was going to insert some photos from the Hubble Telescope, but, wow, so many spectacular pictures! I'll post one, just to have a thumbnail for the Facebook link...but you gotta go look at them - Hubble Telescope. Take as long as you want, and when your awe-meter is redlining, come back.

Spiral Galaxy M100

See, those they stars, galaxies, nebulae, whatever...are out there. Their size staggers the imagination. But we couldn't see them.

Until...we put a camera up above the atmosphere of earth and focused it on those objects and magnified them.

In the same way, when we magnify God, we are not enlarging Him beyond what He is. He is vast beyond imagining. But, when we get away from the world's atmosphere and focus on Him, He is magnified. Then we can begin to comprehend just the smallest amount of who He really is.

He is, truly, Awesome. When He is magnified, that shows more and more...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Faithful Faves - Matthew

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

As we head into the New Testament, I'm once again more than just a little intimidated by my plan. Pick ONE passage from each book??

So I'm reminding myself of the criteria...I'm not looking for the most profound or key verse from each book, just the passage that speaks to me on the given day.

So when I flipped my Bible open to Matthew, the first verse my eyes landed on suddenly grabbed my attention. I nearly just went with that, but I decided maybe I was being hasty and so I skimmed through to see if anything else jumped off the page at me.

I wavered a moment over the parable of the 10 Virgins, but checked and found that I've already blogged about that. So I'm going with the passage that beckoned to me at the outset:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." -- Matt 5:17-18

Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

We often focus on a part of the reason Jesus came - to give his life for many, that we might have abundant life - but that really is just one aspect of why Jesus came, one part of the Law that required fulfilling.

He fulfilled it all.

Christianity is unique in this concept: mankind is unable to fulfill the requirements of Heaven, so God came to earth and fulfilled them for us.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reminding myself...

This is a Facebook note I wrote in January, 2009:
This Was God's Idea
Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 10:43am

I have to remind myself of that.

It's just the sort of thing He would do...put us in a house with a staggering, budget stretching mortgage and then tell us to fix it up.

When we bought the house back in 2005, the home inspector gave us a green light on it; in fact, he seemed impressed with it. There were only a few things that he recommended the seller fix for us.

We since have learned that its beauty is only skin deep. And the fixes, when they happened, either didn't fix the problem or were done improperly and created new problems. Everything...and I mean this house appears to have been done as cheaply as possible to look good. It was all about appearances.

It looks pretty good from the curb; it's in a nice neighborhood. This house shouldn't be like this.

But God was obviously in charge of us getting into this house. Never once did I pray asking Him to make it work. My prayer was that, if we were not *supposed* to be here, the deal would fall through somehow. I didn't want to live in a house that wasn't in His plan. Especially one that came with such a big debt load.

But, unlike all the others we were interested in before this one, it didn't fall through, even though there were opportunities for it to fall through. So I have to conclude that God put us here. I considered the mortgage to be the giant in the promised land and reminded myself of that over and over when the worries hit me late at night.

Now there are repairs needed that cannot be postponed. And that budget-breaking mortgage does not leave us resources for them. So, I confess, I was rather put out with My Heavenly Father. It didn't make sense.

And do you know what He did? He pointed me to Hosea and reminded me that it didn't make sense for a man of God to marry a prostitute, either.

Could it be possible that there is some sort of illustration here?

The people we purchased the house from were not Christians; they practiced a pagan religion. Somehow, I began to see the message how pagan philosophy is all about appearances...nothing good and solid on which to build something. Our task is to restore structural integrity to a house that has only a nice appearance. Yes, a powerful illustration.

Also an expensive one. But if this is what God wants us to do, He's got the resources for it. My prayer now is that we'll be strategic in finding and using those resources.

It was, after all, His idea.

We just had a contractor in yesterday to look at FURTHER repairs needed from, basically, the same materials and construction processes. And, once again, we've found that the repairs should've been made LONG ago, and, since they weren't, there is much more extensive work required to a)fix the bad stuff and b) stop further problems.

So I searched back through my FB notes to find that post and remind myself what we're doing and why. This is His idea. His illustration.

And, oh, we have a Wedding happening in less than 8 weeks. Hopefully Phase 1...the essential structural repairs...will be done by then.

I am not going to panic. I am choosing to Trust.

My part, at the moment, is to clear all my sewing stuff from the area by the end of the week. And find SOMEWHERE to put it...

Monday, July 18, 2011

The 'Quarterly Break'

In January, the annual first-of-the year fast at church always includes the Internet, so January's break was included there-in.

In April, we lost power for 5 days; I counted that as April's Break. Not exactly up to snuff, since by rights I should've taken the break the week before the storms hit. It snuck up on me.

But July's break is scheduled to start today...and I think I'll pay attention and take it.

Not that anyone would notice much here, since I am pretty much doing good to get just the Friday Faithful Faves post up right now.

But, this week is the yearly Girl's Ministries retreat, so I'll be gone half the week anyway. I'll be back next week and I'll be starting the New Testament w/the FFF when I get back online.

Where has the summer GONE???

Friday, July 15, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves: Malachi

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

We've had some internet issues this week; our connectivity has been rather intermittent. So I haven't been able to post on things like (gulp) my second post-50 birthday, which was way harder to face than the 5-0 itself.

Maybe that explains why, out of all the instructions and exhortations in Malachi, the verse that stands out to me today is 4:2

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

That sounds pretty good to this creaky 'vintage' late baby boomer...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - Zechariah

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Back in the day, when I taught youth Sunday School and our curriculum was a six-year tour through the Bible, I found Zechariah to be one of the most difficult books to teach. There are true gems in there, but to comprehensively cover all the visions in such a way as to make sense to teenagers was a real challenge.

The passage that jumped out at me today is something of a everyone:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.' - Zech.7: 9 -10

Study on that awhile. Each aspect of it. There's an incredible amount of instruction in that little bit of Scripture; not the least to monitor our thoughts.

Do not think evil of each other.... that really is pretty profound. That means that I'm not to think the guy who cut me off in traffic with horn blaring as if it were MY fault is a jerk; I'm not to look at folks on the other side of the political spectrum as folks acting under deliberate wicked intentions (Misguided, ill-advised, illogical, maybe ;-) );basically, I'm not to assume the worst about any other individual for whatever reason.

That's hard. Really hard. 'Cause, you know, I probably would never plan to tell someone else my bad opinion of a third party...but I sure would think it every time that third party ticked me off. And then I'd be surprised when it actually came out of my mouth someday...possibly to the wrong person, who could not be trusted to keep said bad opinion to him/herself and so the yuck grows.

But...mercy and compassion will keep that judgmental stuff from getting rooted in my spirit...and if it's not in my spirit, it won't come out of my mouth when I accidentally, momentarily drop the guard.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - Haggai

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

The return of the exiles to Jerusalem had begun; building programs were shaping up. But they had become discouraged in their efforts to rebuild the Temple and had come to a halt because of pressure from the surrounding nations and ultimately by a decree from Artaxerxes.

But with a change of administration in Babylon came a shift in political leanings and the time was ripe for the construction to resume. However, the people were now not eager to undertake the construction...perhaps they remembered how they had been rebuked before, or perhaps they were just so caught up in their day-to-day responsibilities that they just didn't want to pursue it. Or maybe a bit of both.

But God knew, better than the Jews, how important the temple was to both them and to His plan. It was time to take up the tools and focus on God's house.

"You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house." - Hag. 1:9

This is a question of priority.

And, you know, sometimes priorities are good things to check. They tend to creep off center if they're not inspected. God was calling on the Jews to look at their unfavorable circumstances and consider their priorities.

Which, by the way, they did...and they began the building process again, which was actually approved and encouraged by the government (see the post on Ezra) and blessed by God.

Checking (and, if need be, adjusting) priorities is always a good thing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In the Waiting Room

I have a little dream...

And the little dream has a little sister.

I kind of packed them both away for long naps. I'd wake them up and play with them just a bit every now and then, but, as the time was so not right, I would tuck them back in and sing them to sleep for another season or two.

But now things are moving and there might be a chance for little sister to come out and meet the world. And, if little sister does...maybe someday the dream itself will follow.

But I really don't have much to do with whether or not it's time.

So I wake them up, dress them in their pretty Sunday ruffles and patent shoes, and wait patiently for a chance to introduce them to someone who will either be glad to see them or be completely not interested in what they might be able to do.

I have knocked gently on the door...I don't want to cause a problem or intrude...but now I'm wondering if my knocking is ignored or just unheard. If it's unheard -- I should knock louder. If it's being ignored, louder knocking would not be a good thing. Perhaps it's just not a good time to knock on the door.

If the dreams are sent packing at this stage, there's not much chance they'll get to come out again.

But...if they are real, God-given dreams, there should be a time and a place for them to come out and grow. If they are not real, God-given dreams, I am beyond disillusioned; where did they come from and why have I invested so much of my heart in them?

This is not just a test of the dreams, it is a test of my character.

It would've been easier if the time had just stayed obviously wrong; I could still hope. But when it looks to be sort of comes to the moment of truth.

And I fear the verdict. But I wouldn't want these dreams to flourish if that is not His plan. If these are the wrong dreams...I need to find the right ones.

After I tuck these back into their boxes and say the funeral prayers.

But, you know, the prayer of my heart isn't that favor comes to my's that, whatever happens to them, I honor Him in word and deed. Because I've messed this part up so bad before; I don't want to mess it up here again.

Who knows...maybe the whole point was to teach me the proper way to crucify my flesh and submit to authority. With the proper attitude.

If we substitute burial shrouds for the ribbons and ruffles, that's what I'll tell myself.

I keep reminding myself that it is not a people decision, it is a God decision. If this is the time, the favor will come from Him. If it is not the time, it is not the fault of anybody. It is simply not time.

But. Until I have a direction, we will wait to see if anyone else thinks it's time for the light to shine on a little dream's little sister...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Faithful Friday Faves - Zephaniah

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

When Old Testament prophets are mentioned, just kind of general, in a group, the collective image is, I'm afraid, of someone proclaiming doom and gloom and judgment. I don't think that's actually true of OT prophets as a group, but that is the stereotype.

However, it is somewhat true of Zephaniah.

And Yet.

Look at the declaration in 3:9:
Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder.

Did you catch that? "Peoples?" As in, more than one people? Maybe, even what it says a few words later, 'all of them'?

I don't think this is talking about universal salvation; put it context and it's rather obvious that this is talking about everyone who's left after the judgment. But it does seem to indicate that there will be folks from ALL people groups who call on God's name and work for him shoulder-to-shoulder.

Personally, I think that's gonna be pretty neat.