Monday, December 30, 2013

Planning for the Future

December is a month of planning at my house.  I'm a college teacher planning next term's lessons.  I'm a home-schooler picking textbooks, printing off calendars and preparing projects.  We'll be moving summer of 2014 and I am looking with a critical eye at things that need to be sold, thrown away or boxed up.  More than any of that though, I'm planning with my two daughters in mind. 

This year I read two books, Sacred Parenting and Parenting by the Book.  Though they were on a very different topics (the first on spiritual disciplines for parents and the second on parenting like Grandma) they asked a painful question.  What do you want for your kids not next year or the year after but at 30?

Think about that a minute.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Silly Statement

Autumn-country-church - Virginia - ForestWander
Have you ever said something and then realized how silly it sounded?  I did the other day.  I said, "Wednesday night church is a time to recharge, to take time out of my busy schedule to worship and learn about God."  It's a pretty common thing to hear on a Wednesday night, and people who say it (including myself) mean well.  But when I thought about what that statement says about me, I decided not to say it any more.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Paying the Piper

Have you ever made a commitment in all good faith and then twinged when it came time to pay the piper?  I am in the middle of one such episode in the life our family. 

When we left America, we sold pretty much everything we owned.  It took a number of garage sales and classified ads but we reduced our "stuff" to half a room in my parents basement and 8 suitcases.  In the intervening years we have reduced even further.  As we began to face up to the reality of our 2014 move back to the States, we realized that we would be coming back with about 8 suitcases of "stuff."  That sounds like the same amount till you realize we're a family of 4 now instead of a family of 3.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

God of Love, God of Wrath

The other day, I was watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I know, I know, that isn't our usual blog fare, but a conversation that took place in this particular episode really got me to thinking.  In the show, a girl named Hannah has had some unpleasant supernatural things happen to her. (This is a sci-fi show, after all).  She believes that God is punishing her for a mistake she made at work that cost people their lives, and that she deserves the punishment.  This is what one of the S.H.I.E.L.D agents says to her: 

No, no you don't. No one does. I had a few nuns around me growing up, and they would talk like that, scaring kids with stories of God's wrath. It made not want to believe.  The only words that stuck with me were something Sister McKenna said from the Bible, I think. She said, "God is love."  It's simple, and it's a little sappy, but that's the version I like. God is love; the thing that holds us together. And if that's true, I don't think He would punish you for making a mistake.  I think He'd forgive a mistake.

As I listened, I realized that this was a perfect example of how the world views God.  He is either a "loving God" who would never punish anyone, and certainly never "send anyone to hell," or He's an angry, vengeful God who sent his chosen people into other nations to destroy innocent people for no reason.  God is loving or God is angry.  Never both.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Woman to Woman: A Book Review

I recently started teaching a Ladies Bible study on alternating Thursdays with my congregation.  In our first two meetings, we had 20-25 ladies. I ordered thirty books. That was almost six months ago.  In one of our recent meetings, there were two of us. Needless to say, I was discouraged. Multiple people told me not to take it personally, and they were probably right, but I could not help but feel like I could have done more to encourage the ladies from the beginning.

At just the right time, God sent a little book to me.  Woman To Woman: A Guide to Teaching and Leading Women is one of the most practical books I've ever had the privilege to read, and I read it right when I needed it most.  It was written by ten different experienced Christian women, and it covers a whole host of leadership roles that women can take. From teaching a ladies Bible class, to speaking at a ladies day, to leading a prayer, the book gives practical and Biblical advice for what women can do as they lead other women. The entire first third of the book covers Ladies Bible Class. I learned a lot of things that will help me as I continue to grow as a woman of Christ called to lead other women.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Jesus: Lord

Do you remember this little ditty from the sixties?

You don't own me
I'm not just one of your many toys
You don't own me
Don't say I can't go with other boys
And don't tell me what to do
Don't tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don't put me on display 'cause
You don't own me

In our society, we don't like the idea of being owned.  Maybe it's reminds us of the horrors of slavery or the days when women were treated as commodities rather than people.  Maybe it's just because we like to be independent.  Even our slang words reveal that the thought that we belong to anybody but ourselves is uncomfortable.  If someone loses a game, we say, "You got owned." 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Flashback:Double Vision

Bible and Lord's Cup and Bread

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
 (Lowry, Mark. "Mary Did you Know?" 1984.)
Double vision happens when our two eyes won't work in concert.  It's a result of a blow to the head or damage to our eyes. However it's not usually something we would pray for!  In the spiritual realm though double vision is just about as good as it gets. A true gift from God, it lets us see two true things at the same time.  Mary must have had the perfect point of view.  From 12 inches away, she looked into the face of her nursing son and saw the eternal Word of God. Two true things.  Mary swaddled her tiny son.  Mary's tiny son created her!  And we wonder, in the song and in our lives, if she could see it both ways. Do you have double vision moments?  Moments when with clarity you see two true things, one physical thing and one spiritual thing? 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jesus: Prince of Peace

What do you want for Christmas?  My littlest one has Barbies on her list.  Instead of dreaming of sugar plums, she has high-heeled shoes and doll houses in view.  She and her compatriot upstairs were comparing notes; "If she gets 2 Barbies and I get 2 Barbies and I have 2 Barbies and she has 2 Barbies, Mom, that's 8 Barbies!

Me? My list is shorter.  I want peace.  

I have peace.  I have no enemies (well at least no one I hate.  Anyone who hates me is thankfully keeping it to themselves right now.)  I am happy in my marriage, and my tween and I still talk instead of argue. Our extended family is warm and supportive.  Our church spans two continents and is true spiritual family, but still I want peace.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Jesus: The Way, The Truth, and The Life

I went through what might be called a crisis of faith as I was finishing high school and entering college.  Between my junior and senior year of high school, I went to a six week residential program for "gifted kids." It was called Governor's school, but perhaps it should have been called "liberal indoctrination school."  While there, I wanted badly to fall for the idea that there are many ways to heaven.  Wouldn't a loving God allow people of many faiths who were sincere in their beliefs come to him?  Did it have to be through Jesus? Thankfully, I still had a profound respect for the Bible, and one verse kept tripping me up.  

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

I believed the Bible to be true, and this verse made it clear that there is only one way to heaven.   I didn't like it.  The problem was that I was focusing all my attention on the exclusive part of the verse: no one comes. The very center of this verse, and of everything I believe, is not no one, but Jesus.  As the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He did too much for us to even seek salvation by any other means.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Jesus: The Lamb of God

Sheep, Stodmarsh 6
I want you to imagine something for me.  Picture two lambs.  One is well fed, fluffy, and pure white.  It lays contentedly in the shepherd's arms.  The other is dead, its throat slit.  The scarlet blood pooling beneath its body, shocking against the pale wool.  These are the two predominant pictures of lambs found in the Bible, and beautifully depicted in the song "Lamb of God," by Twila Paris.   Jesus became one lamb so that we could become the other. 

Your only son, no sin to hide...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Jesus: The Servant

When we think of Jesus as a servant, one image springs immediately to mind.  The Savior at the table with his disciples, wash basin on the floor, towel cinched around his waist, washing their feet.  We've read the story a hundred times.  But did you know that one of the prophetic names of Jesus is "The Servant" and that the meaning encompasses more than the startling lesson of the Rabbi kneeling on the floor?  The Jews of Jesus' day had a prophetic picture in mind of who "The Servant of the Lord" was and what he was coming to do.