Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Even though it’s a lot of work to pack up, I like the idea of moving. It’s a different season. My new office will be darker – it probably faces north with at least four less feet of windows. I’ll miss the view I have now, a busy intersection where fire trucks and busses and cars zoom by. I’ll miss the lake with its surrounding mountains as it changes colors with the weather. But there will be a new vista and a new workspace to set up. I just hope I can take along my light-colored desk and files.
The admins chatter in the halls while they pack up kitchens and conference rooms. Their voices remind me of the continual migration of peoples. People are constantly improving, moving, and settling in. I’m happiest when my inner life reflects God at work, improving, moving, and settling yet more deeply into my core.
God’s peace be with you.
*The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands. Psalm 25:8–10 NLT
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 NLT
*For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV
Monday, March 30, 2009
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
This morning, a high-schooler slowly lifts herself out the back seat of the Hyundai ahead of me. I She is at the age when people try to do everything listed in a day. Dressed in ragged jeans, the young woman saunters across the street in front of her mom’s car. Our light turns yellow, then red as we watch the teenager drift towards her school. A long queue of cars forms behind me and we settle in to wait for the signal change. Dozens of cars stream past us on the arterial.
On green, the mom and another passenger cruise slowly around the corner. The driver tromps on the gas any time there’s a break or passing lane. She turns at every light in front of me for several miles until she gets into the carpool turn for the freeway. While she sits at another yellow, I drive straight ahead to the main on-ramp. The woman catches up to me again three miles down the road, zooming by in the HOV lane. It’s a reminder to pray for her family.
I’m wondering why I take notice. It’s such a small matter at the beginning of the week. My main feeling as we drive near each other is relief. I wouldn’t want go back to being a high schooler’s mom… ah, those mood swings and glowering silences. Our kids seem to have survived their teens with a sense of God’s affirmation and his work through them.
This season of life is rich. Our oldest son is marrying his sweetheart in a month and a half. She makes my son happy – and it was fun to see how beautifully she arranged my birthday roses yesterday. Our daughter has a great job back East. Another son and his wife work in ministry; he’s in real estate and she works in a law office. Our youngest son is in college and turned 20 last week. This is a good time of life. Indeed.
God's peace be with you.
*For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
*Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically." Romans 12:9–11 NLT
*Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 NIV
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Today, on my birthday, God’s present was that I got to present a paper at an academic conference. I wasn’t sure I was up to it, but I submitted the requested proposal, did the research, and my family promised to pray. Several colleagues showed up to cheer me on. I stumbled over some words because there were so many of them. But after the paper was read, the dreaded part—fielding questions afterwards—went by quickly. The chair closed the session with thoughtful questions.
My daughter, who dreads public speaking, laughed when I told her how much fun I’d had. God must have a great sense of humor, to make us all so different. His pleasure and ours comes when we are obedient, when we walk step by step in the path he has for us.
God's peace be with you.
*But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7, 8 NIV
*Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT
*But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4: 7-10 NLT
Friday, March 27, 2009
I walked the inside perimeter of the store, stretching my legs and occasionally looking around for anything we needed. Young mom pushed baby buggies and browsed the sale racks. Elderly people waited for prescriptions to get filled. And busy clerks were restocking and tidying shelves. But there was nothing we wanted. We need no more things to fill our lives.
God has brought us such abundance over the past years. We have been blessed inside and out. Our bodies are healthy, our minds sound, our spirits filled with gratitude for his provisions.
This morning, the conference presenters got to the heart of the gospel: God is with us and our mandate is to share Good News. I was thankful. God satisfies his requirements and our search for love and meaning through his Son. If you don’t know the Story, please read it for yourself. Start with the narratives of Luke or John in the Bible (2nd half, or use the table of contents.)
God's peace be with you.
*Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalm 25:4–5 NLT
*The earnings of the godly enhance their lives, but evil people squander their money on sin. Proverbs 10:16 NLT
*Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10 NIV
Thursday, March 26, 2009
All this work--the study, the presentations, the talk and listening--is because of a simple person who lived 2000 years ago. Through the ages, men and women have looked for someone to reconcile us to God. We make many efforts and develop religions.
Yet, he has already come.What an influence Jesus had on civilization and spirituality. And on each of us, whether we accept him and live in his love... or if we reject him and will have to bow to worship when he meets us on the Day of Judgment.
I'm copying a description below for a new book: I'll send a copy free to the best description of why you believe Jesus is the greatest man who ever lived.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I was absolutely delighted by the conversation going around. There were a few narrow-minded and bigoted Christians who got ugly and condemning. (Not much like Jesus, who only shouted at those who thought they had all the answers!) There were some sincere questions, asking about moral compass, and the evolution of life, democracy, and how we know can right and wrong.
Throughout the discussion, I was thinking deeply about the mystery of faith—the absolute mind-blowing hugeness and implications. What Good News! God making himself accessible to humankind. Pretty amazing – as Paul wrote to Philemon (below), we get to know more about him as we share our faith with others.
Humans are so wonderfully made. We have been given freedom to shape our worldviews with experiences and culture. (Wow – look all those folk dances and indigenous theatre.) We reason and wrestle with tough questions. (Does a cat ask about the origin of the universe?) We design clothing and art and houses and cities. (Ever find a skyscraper or bicycle produced by the most intelligent snake, frog, fish, or bird?) We move homes, change jobs, get an education, and make friends in new places, just because… not always just for survival like animals do. Our integral morals and curiosity set us apart from every other species.
I’m thinking today about how Good our God is. How Unselfish of him to share his image with us – that creative flair, love of beauty, desire for orderliness and constant search for improvement and fresh design. How Generous of him to give us his unlimited resources when we are tested and tried by the challenges of life in a fallen world.
Most of all, how Lovely that he promises to make all things new when time ends… and to share it with those who love him and follow his ways.
God's peace be with you.
*No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT
*I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. Philemon 6-7 NIV
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Instead, we read in scripture that God made us and loves us. Knows us inside and out and still loves us. He even provided reconciliation, giving inner peace that spills out into every relationship.
The rub is we have to accept the provision as it is given. No adding to God's offer. No mixing it up with our own preferences. Just say yes to God's kindness.
God's peace be with you.
*So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV
*But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
*And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV
Monday, March 23, 2009
It’s the winter of my soul when my internal motor ramps down to a low gear. Before I know it, I’m withdrawing to bare essentials with people and tasks. Detailed to-do lists keep me on track at work, and I watch my vegan food intake carefully. I read lots of scripture to keep my internal self moving ahead. Still, I get confused and muddled around big groups of people and the hustle of industry outside my own four walls. I feel listless about ministry and it’s an effort to go to church. Rehearsals are agony. I dread visiting people in their spaces and go home as soon as politely possible. The levels of functionality rise and drop, but there’s a steady heartbeat underneath, a settled knowing in whose hands I rest.
I get plenty of unhelpful advice. “Jolly up!” “Step up to the plate!” “Read something inspirational.” Or just plain, “Get over it. Snap out of it.” And, “Get some medicine to make you feel up. Then take sleeping pills so you can rest at night.”
Someone even said, "I wouldn't tell anyone - they'll take advantage of you." So what. I need the solitude that refreshes and renews. Love the deep breaths that steady and stabilize. It's my season to think deeply about the world’s griefs and pray over heartaches and famine and illnesses. A small taste of suffering with those who don't have the wonderful privileges and abundance of life we enjoy.
We know God hovers over us with his love in dark days. His light pierces the shadows. And we know spring is coming. Somehow, summer is sweeter and life is richer when it’s not perfectly plateau’d at “Happyland.”
God's peace to you today!
*Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever... Psalm 136: 1-3 NLT
*People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray. Proverbs 10:17 NLT
*Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4, 5 NIV
*So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" Hebrews 13:6 NLT
Sunday, March 22, 2009
For the last few months, our house has been in process of flux. Sometimes we have to take things apart to put them back together. It’s a lot of work, but very energizing to be able to restore, renew, and refresh our living spaces.
Meanwhile I’m working and studying, discovering more about God and his work in the world. It’s reassuring to learn how God is clearing, cleaning, and building up each of us. He does not give up when we collect bitterness, failures, or unforgiveness. He keeps working and taking away what separates us from him and each other. And then he renews us from the inside out.
God's peace to you today!
*"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
*All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37 NLT
*And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:23 NLT
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I’ve found that a regular fast schedule gets harder, not easier. On the chosen day, food is everywhere. I’m hungry by breakfast and famished by lunch. I feel hopeless by supper, and hate going to bed without a snack. I even usually wake up during the night in anticipation of being able to eat again. During the day's process, I wonder how much good fasting does.
When we deny ourselves food, are we using the time to focus on spiritual and life values? Jesus said that God was pleased by a contrite heart. Fasting must be accompanied by an openness to hear from God. A willingness to die to self and hunger for more of God’s presence. A renouncement of faults and turning to the living One.
One of the reasons for fasting is to appeal to God, to ask him for favor and help. But in the process, we are transformed. Rather than miraculous intervention, we often find ourselves changing on the inside in ways that God uses to bless others.
God's peace to you today!
*Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 8:10, 11 NIV
*The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more, the Lord will be your Everlasting Light, and your days of sorrow will end. Isaiah 60:19, 20 NIV
*"Even now," declares the Lord, "return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:12, 13 NIV
*So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: "Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: 'To an Unknown God.' This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I'm telling you about." Acts 17:22–23 NIV
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
preternatural \pree-ter-NATCH-uh-rul\ adjective
1 : existing outside of nature
2 : exceeding what is natural or regular : extraordinary
3 : inexplicable by ordinary means; especially : psychic
Louis Armstrong's preternatural talent set him apart from the other musicians of his day, and his style and compositions have influenced generations of performers.
We have it all figured out. Just like Jesus’ disciples did. Their rabbi Jesus, with his extraordinary powers and abilities, would become ruler of Palestine, drive out the oppressors, and make them important officials. “When will you take the reins of the Kingdom?” they asked a final time, after his resurrection.
We sometimes think we’re on the right track, too. We can see the way things are going. So we launch out and proclaim the future—only to find out God had something entirely different planned. One word from Jesus, sometimes through a verse of scripture or an insight during prayer, can change the entire direction of our thinking and behavior.
His preternatural wisdom keeps the universe together. “He holds all things together by his powerful word,” said the writer of Hebrews. What confidence and ease we have in his provision today, whether working through piles on our desks or meeting with people.
God's peace to you today!
*The words of the godly are like sterling silver; the heart of a fool is worthless. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. Proverbs 10:20–21 NLT
*[Jesus] "But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:43-45 NLT
*In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:1-5 NIV
*In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. Hebrews 1:2-4 NIV
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The most fun they’ve had? Hanging out with students. The most-named regret? Not hanging out with students enough. So it’s not just the students who remember relationships as the primary learning experience. Cross-cultural faculty members may forget what they’ve taught but they remember faces and people, times in coffee shops, and hours spent laughing and chatting in homes. Years later, when a former student greets them in some remote corner of the world, they have a strong bond of friendship and a solid network to build on.
As I contemplate the writing madness that is a PhD program, it’s fun to see how people learn and what they value. From the cubicle where I am wedged with my books and my laptop, I pause to smile at what I’m learning about others. Even when I don’t have much time to “just hang out” with anyone myself.
God's peace to you today!
*The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever. Psalm 145:17-21 NIV
*[Jesus] "'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12: 30-31 NLT
*Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV
Monday, March 16, 2009
It’s a blustery day for a bike ride, and the weather forecast predicts 55% chance of rain during my commute. I take a chance on the 45% and have a cold but pleasurable ride to work. I feel the wind on my cheeks, tugging at the fairing and the saddlebag that holds my rain gear. Overhead the clouds blow from ocean to mountains.
Some years ago, the city of Kirkland rerouted a main street. The paving is twice as long as the original straight shot road … and keeps cars in the protected area in lakeside wetlands longer. Because the street winds, the commuter cars stop and start up to the traffic light.
I take the old route along the shore this morning. No one else is in sight. A swampy woodland runs between the cars and me. Broken posts etch the footings where lake steamers used to dock before taking passengers across to Seattle. Last week herons and ducks perched above the calm surface of the water. Today waves slap against empty wood.
I wonder how often Jesus took side roads. Just because. Stepping out when it would have been easier to stay put. Though I didn’t meet anyone along the way, I had time to pray, to think, to thank God for the beautiful world in my neighborhood. Time to reflect on Lent, the season when Jesus was preparing for the road to the cross by teaching, healing, and visiting those he loved.
--God's peace to you today!
*The godly are showered with blessings; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. …The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. Proverbs 10:6, 11 NLT
*Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 26:12 NLT
*We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 NIV
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Both families have prayed for J and R since their births. Our families have known each other for years. Our delight in God at work in the world includes watching our children become a couple. We are thankful that God answers prayer and keeps his eyes on those who belong to him. He knows how to bring about his plans while astonishing us with his goodness.
God's peace to you today!
*But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12 NIV
*I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints—but let them not return to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Psalm 85:8, 9 NIV
*Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4 NKJV
*"For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God." Romans 5:10–11 NIV
Friday, March 13, 2009
Sometimes laziness keeps us from being part of the Body of Christ, too. It’s easier to stay home than volunteer. It’s more convenient to look out for one’s own interests rather than the interests of others. And perhaps it’s safer not to get involved in the world beyond one’s doorstep.
Today I’m bundling up. It’s nice to have a moving-body day in anticipation of spring. We’ll see what the hours brings, but I have a warm office at the other end of a nine mile ride, mail to read, updates to write, and enews to send (if the editor has finished with it).
Evening note: it was a fabulous day for a ride.
God's peace to you today!
*David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 NIV
*But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12 NTL
"We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well." Romans 12:5b–7 NLT
Thursday, March 12, 2009
My head is full of beautiful images. Cobalt water glasses on wooden dining tables. The masts of sailboats aglow as the sun dipped behind the mountains that frame Lake Washington. The funny acrylic paintings, modern mosaics, and contrasting black and white photos. The deep blue sky outlining the huge shadow-firs that hem the road home.
A world of beauty. A whole world of wonders at the waning of a long day. And a God of grace who made us with eyes to see, minds to understand, and a heart that longs for relationship with him.
God's peace to you today!
*How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Numbers 24:5-6 NIV
*I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. Ecclesiastes 3:24-26 NIV
*I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 NIV
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Proliferate: \pruh-LIF-uh-rayt\ verb
Meaning: to grow or increase in number rapidly
Example Sentence: "As low rates proliferated, lenders fell over themselves to stuff cash in customers' pockets." (Daniel Gross, Newsweek, August 20/27, 2007)
A nice young man is clearing up the winter mess in the garden. He pops into the kitchen to get instructions this morning, and we chat about how we share our experience as followers of Christ with others.
We hear many “out-there” comments about the search for meaning in Seattle. Without batting an eye, people share how the stars are giving directions (astrology); the universe is blessing with unexpected provisions (New Age); or “I totally believe that because I was raised Catholic, but I also like the Zen feeling of meditation and Hindu philosophy so I’ve added three gods to the altar in my hallway nook” (syncretism).
My experience makes more sense to me than the human scramble of philosophies and religions. I find myself under the watchful eye of a personal God who designed a renewable system of nature in beautiful mathematical and scientific precision. He is Perfection, and we are estranged from him because we do not follow his ways. The debt we owe from our earliest choices is a matter of simple justice: rebellion against God requires punishment, and so our sin requires a penalty.
Being Perfect Love as well as Perfect Justice, God longs for relationship with us and comes to live among us. He satisfies the awful price by taking our debt on himself, Jesus dying in our stead, and releasing us from our burden to the freedom of a relationship with God.
After hearing all the wild and woolly explorations of imagination and self-justification, I’m relieved and at peace. God himself designed the way to reconcile mankind with himself. The good I do is a freely given response to his love, not a desperate hope to tip the scales of justice in my favor (Islam). I’m the luckiest and most secure woman in the world—even as irrational religious beliefs proliferate around me.
God's peace to you today!
*Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD. Psalm 117 NIV
*(Jesus) ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second [commandment] is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31 NLT
*(Paul, writing to the church in Rome) "Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. Now they are the rebels, and God's mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God's mercy. For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone. Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!" Romans 11:30–33 NLT
*"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 1 Peter 3:12-13 NLT
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
There are times when the best strategies, the most current technology, and the sharpest minds can’t find a solution. Sometimes throwing up our hands and falling on our knees is our best defense.
What looks impossible in your week? Maybe it's time to work on knee calluses.
God's peace to you today!
*David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 NIV
*[Jehoshaphat prayed,] O our God, won't you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.
"[The prophet Jahaziel] said, 'Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD's victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!'" 2 Chronicles 20: 12,15–17 NLT
*For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." Matthew 18:20 NLT
*We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:16-19 NASB
Monday, March 9, 2009
If God’s intention is to transform us into Christ-likeness (having the characteristics of Jesus), some of us are missing the point. I had been looking around the congregation, wondering how much difference it makes to be a Christ-follower. Many who claim to be Jesus’ disciples look just like everyone else. They are nice people or not. They pay their taxes or cheat a bit. They are polite or rude. I could see the transforming power of a relationship with God in those around me. They are marked by encounters with the living God.
The questions that grabbed me included: What does it mean to have an unveiled face? What does it mean to contemplate or reflect God’s glory? And if that is what transforms us, why are those of us claiming to be Christians not pursuing that with all our might?
I have no answers. But I’m thinking today about what it would mean… and the courage it would take… to unveil my face for a hard look in the mirror of God’s word. Thinking about the radical transformation that would occur, were I to gaze upon the invisible, awesome God I serve.
God's peace to you today!
*He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1: 15-16 NLT
*[Paul]…do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all contemplate [or reflect] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Some of us never outgrow the childhood need for such competition and control. We enjoy movement, the feeling of progress from place to place. We know what squares are in play, but don’t stay put for long. We chart out the course, toss a pebble, and hop from place to place. All within safe boundaries, of course.
Although the motion makes it look like we’re going somewhere, we turn to come back to the starting line before playing again. And again. We become champions at avoiding a marker or bouncing around inside the lines. And our friends cheer from the sidelines, rooting for us, shouting, “Don’t let us down!”
I wonder how Jesus’ friends felt when he left the safety of the game. What they said when he walked outside the boundaries of what they knew and expected. They stopped cheering and sharply criticized when he drew a bigger life, surprised by his skill and audacity.
During Lent, we celebrate the uniqueness of God living among us. Loving us without being limited by our little games and expectations. Jesus said he had come to give us life… and that more abundantly. Let’s push our self-limitations and amusements aside during this Lenten season to see how bountiful life can be with him as our friend and guide.
God's peace to you today!
"At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, 'Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the LORD your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. Don't you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the LORD, and he handed them over to you.
The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.' … In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the LORD's help but turned only to his physicians. So he died in the forty-first year of his reign." 2 Chronicles 16:7–9, 12–13 NLT
*[Jesus] "But I tell you who hear Me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. But love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27, 28, 35, 36 NIV
*[Paul] "And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don't know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again." Acts 20:22–25 NLT
*For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it." 1 Peter 3:10-11 NLT
Friday, March 6, 2009
Occasionally I work from my desk at home, which gives me a few extra hours of not getting in the car or getting dolled up. So I have some space in my day to think, pray, and reflect. This morning I made breakfast, a leisurely half-hour process of stirring Irish oatmeal and making Indian tea (Lipton Yellow teabags simmered in spices, half water, half milk, and sugar.)
Breakfast was ready when my husband came down, at the beginning of his long day (4 hours of class time, 1 hour of chapel, plus 4 hours of grad teaching that ends at 10pm). He sat for a moment before jumping up to cool his tea by pouring it between cups over the sink. Up again to move the water jug left on the counter. Up again to adjust something else. Up again to put dishes into the dishwasher. He barely sat still. Take out the garbage. Pack up books and resources. He flew out the door at 7am.
The house is peaceful again. The flurry of movement is quiet. The canaries are starting to chirp awake and outside the sun is shining on the forest. In the tranquility, I quake to think of the consequences of two people in the same household in the same mad dash. Someone’s got to sit still.
C’est moi. I settle in, ready to tackle the day with work emails out of the way, dishwasher and washing machine going, and a pile of to-dos. We are the perfect fit.
God's peace to you today!
*There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise: Ants—they aren't strong, but they store up food all summer. Hyraxes—they aren't powerful, but they make their homes among the rocks. Locusts—they have no king, but they march in formation. Lizards—they are easy to catch, but they are found even in kings' palaces. Proverbs 30:24–28 NLT
*[Jesus] "Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink: nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" Matthew 6:25, 26 NKJV
*When [Jesus] had called the people to Himself, with the disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Mark 8:34-36 NKJV
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The music is loud and the style recognizable to surrounding culture, but the talks pull no punches: they are blunt, to the point, and elicit strong reactions. “Many people write after the first visit that they disagree with something I said, and that’s ok. We challenge them to think about what they believe and think through the claims of Jesus. They can take their time to explore, but we expect a transformed and committed life if they decide to follow him.”
My husband was enthusiastic and affirming when he came home that night. “This pastor gets it! He’s taken scripture and applied it in a very New Testament way, into the context of his surroundings.” In contrast, some others were offended that the upstart wasn’t running church as usual. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the success of a model which purposed to introduce Jesus to people within their culture, rather than the formal “withdrawal from the world” model they preferred. “It won’t last. It’s a fad that isn’t what church is meant to be.” (Sadly, for all our contemporary academia, we sometimes are uncomfortable when God works outside our box. Sometimes, the more learning we have, the more rigid our thinking.)
I asked my husband why his response was embracing rather than distraught or uneasy. “You and I were called as missionaries,” he said. “We expect God to interact within every culture, even the post-Christian one of the USA. We are on a mission path, so when we hear of God at work today in scripture, it causes excitement, not hesitation or resistance.”
This Lenten season, we are asking what God is doing that is new and fresh. How are people telling the old, old story? Where is the Wind of the Spirit blowing that makes us uncomfortable just because we haven’t experienced it before?
Let’s be open to joining, praying for, and supporting those who follow the Shepherd on paths to new meadows where his voice has not yet been heard.
God's peace to you today!
*If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain
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 Corinthians 13:1-8 NIV
*So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22 NLT
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Gregory explores what it might be like in this easy-to-read novella. It has and interesting storyline and sound theology (vetted by W, our resident theologian, professor at Northwest U).
I wasn’t expecting to be drawn in or to compare my own reactions to the participants. Both my husband and I enjoyed the read, and will purchase copies to give away to those with questions about what it means to follow Jesus today.
Don’t miss this! I have a book to give away this week, thanks to the Random House blog tour: Dinner with a Perfect Stranger.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Each weekend, I read aloud a paper I’m presenting at the end of the month. Saturday, as I was reading, I realized that it could become one of my papers in my graduate program. Sure, it needs revision to emphasize the topic of the class. The format needs changing to my school’s guidelines. But I don’t have to start from scratch. The hundreds of hours of research invested can be used twice. Whew.
We have to trust that God can bring together time and obligations. We are at rest during this Lenten season when we are reminded that he holds past, present, and future. Because he loves us, we can relax in his care.
God's peace to you today!
*"For you have given him his heart's desire; you have withheld nothing he requested. Interlude You welcomed him back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold on his head. …For the king trusts in the LORD. The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling." Psalm 21:2–3,7 NLT
*My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1,2 NIV
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-20 NIV
Monday, March 2, 2009
Jesus’ generosity in extending the same opportunity to someone “unworthy” in every way as he gave to “good” followers gives us hope. He understands when we’re filled with pain or rage or impatience. His patient care for those around him extends to us as well.
My prayer is that our response is more like Peter than Judas. When we mess up, let’s repent immediately. Turn from bad behavior and open our heart to the gently transforming love of God, who knows us completely, inside and out. He accepts us and offers a remedy for our failures, even while he lets us choose our actions and the consequences.
God's peace to you today!
*Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, And He was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me! Psalm 66:16-20 NKJV
*For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:8 NLT
*Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 NIV
*How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! and that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 NIV