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...