Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lent day 37: Almost there

I wonder what Jesus felt that last week. He knew he was going to be killed. The human Jesus must have dreaded the pain. He was about to lose friendships, life, and future. He had no wife or children, but his mother and best friends would suffer with him. They and their families would always be shamed by association because of his crucifixion as a criminal and rebel.

Mary might have thought, "For this I raised my son? Watched over him, nursed him, wiped away tears, and washed his scrapes? For such a terrible end I prayed for him and listened to him puzzle his way into adulthood as God's son? Surely not this dreadful end. This can't be right? Where is God when I know he could rescue my son?"

We don't read any of that in scripture, but as a mom with a chronically ill child, I've asked those questions. I don't dwell on life as 'unfair,' but I am staggered by the evil and sickness and grief that lurk, waiting for unsuspecting victims. At times, they threaten to overwhelm us with their destructive forces.

Today, reading an update about the young daughter of a friend who will die of cancer today or tomorrow, I can't fathom the rage and turmoil that lie ahead for the family. There may be internal questions, a lack of understanding of God's will, and the fog of uncertainty about God's love - and maybe doubt about his ability to heal.

On the other side of grief lies acceptance of God's goodness and his Presence among us. Though the rivers need to be passed through, the fires lick at our hearts, and the flood rises up, we are not overpowered. He promised never to leave or forsake us in this broken world. And some day, with resurrection power, he will redeem the world, sweep us up to be with him, and show us the scope of his plans and purposes. For now, we hold tight, and remind ourselves we are almost at Easter.

Read more:
*Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory. But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God. Psalm 50:13–15, 23 NLT

*I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV

*Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIV

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lent Day 36: Chickens and new life

I'm listening to a chicken webinar. Yes, chickens. Two experts with PhDs in agriculture raise chickens. They are online, answering questions. "Know that expense, health, and zoning laws are all part of the picture. Can you legally keep chickens?" I think we can. (Check for zoning laws.) In most suburbs, you can have 3 hens as pets or eggs. No roosters allowed.

Do we want to keep chickens? Nope. Sometimes, it's interesting just to examine things that cross the horizon. Chickens have been on my radar all winter. Various friends and blogs keep mentioning them. "Eventually backyard chickens will be as popular as backyard gardens," claims the expert. Maybe, but can you leave a garden for a few days? Usually. Chickens? Not so much. They scatter at the slightest scare and need at least daily attention.

In this week when Easter eggs are being painted, hunted, and part of fun competitions, I'm thinking about the traditions that have crept into a Passover feast celebrating the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. Resurrection - does its renewal and new life focus go with Easter egg hunts? Hmmmm.

We're trying to keep our focus on Jesus this coming week. We're reading the last half of the gospels as a reminder of the sacrifice and loving heart of Jesus as he walked toward death. A man of courage and conviction, kindness and large-heartedness. Bet no one ever called him "chicken." He was generous even to those who despised him and caused him harm. He died for us before we knew we needed a substitute to take our place on the cross.

Read more:
*Hum this to the tune of Danny Boy. Every time we've sung this, we are blown away by what we do and don't know about our saviour.

I cannot tell why he whom angels worship
should set his love upon the sons of men,
or why as shepherd he should seek the wanderers,
to bring them back, they know not how nor when.
But this I know, that he was born of Mary
when Bethlehem's manger was his only home,
and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured;
and so the saviour, saviour of the world, has come.

I cannot tell how silently he suffered
as with his peace he graced this place of tears,
nor how his heart upon the cross was broken,
the crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted,
and stays our sin and calms our lurking fear,
and lifts the burden from the heavy-laden;
for still the saviour, saviour of the world, is here.

I cannot tell how he will win the nations,
how he will claim his earthly heritage,
how satisfy the needs and aspirations
of east and west, of this and every age.
But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory,
and he shall reap the harvest he has sown,
and some glad day his sun will shine in splendour
when he the saviour, saviour of the world, is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
when at his bidding every storm is stilled,
or who can say how great the jubilation
when all our hearts with love for him are filled.
But this I know, the skies will sound his praises,
ten thousand-thousand human voices sing,
and earth to heaven, and heaven to earth,
will answer, "At last the saviour, saviour of the world, is king!"
by W.Y. Fullerton (1857-1932)

*You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! Romans 5:6-9 NIV

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lent Day 35: Great expectations

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. I have a box full of bamboo fronds that look like palms, but forgot to ask if a church needed them. For symbolic waving, of course. (If you know someone who could use dozens of decorative fronds, let me know.)

We have such odd bits of history combined in church culture. I wonder what Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, or Mary would have thought of today's views of saints, icons, holy days, people dressing up (or down) for church services, ostracism of those unlike a particular group of believers, and church buildings. Those are a few of the things the church has accumulated in two thousand years.

Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Don't neglect meeting together. Build each other up. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Love mercy. Act kindly. Walk humbly with our God.

What else does God ask of us? Really and truly, his expectations are not that complicated.

Read more:

*LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
--He who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15 NIV

*As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lent Day 34: His eye is on the sparrow

Flors and her daughter dropped by for a visit yesterday. While my daughter and the young lady went shopping, we 'old women' watched Misty's two active, well-behaved toddlers. They kept us busy enough that we were happy to see their mom walk in the door.

Watching my birds hop around the aviary, Flors mentioned that her dad, recently widowed, might like a little bird to keep him company.

"Would your dad like two birds?" Two zebra finches were isolated in a little cage in my office: the female had been pecked by the flock and the male provided companionship while feathers grew in.

"That would be great. I bet he would love that!" I washed a spare birdcage, popped in an unopened bag of seed and some grit, a birdie bathtub, perches, waterer, and a cuttlestone. All supplies had been a gift to me this winter, but I hadn't understood the purpose of the abundance until then.

We caught the birds and put them into a travel box just before Flors and her daughter left for home. This morning, I got a note that Flors' dad was happy to see the birds. The lively, chirping creatures will be good company. He's had birds before, so knows how to care for them. And he'd been thinking that a feathered friend might alleviate the loneliness in a too-quiet house.

God, who cares for the sparrows, also knows what we need. He even knows when we need a sparrow or two to occupy us and cheer us on lonely days.

Read more:
*Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD: trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Psalm 37:3-11 NIV

*The LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3

*Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lent Day 33: Tell the truth

We watched The Invention of Lying the other day. The crude truths told by those who couldn't lie are nothing like the loving truths expected from Christians. But several ideas stuck with me. My brain keeps turning them around and around for views from different angles.

Our culture is accustomed to half-truths and outright lies. Western-style capitalism, where the seller pitches what he or she wants people to buy rather than what they need, is based on lies and greed. Sales are honorable when supplies needed are offered to the person who needs them, at a fair price. But the competition of capitalism, having to sell by pressuring others to buy, is not necessarily built on full disclosure and fairness.

I'm also thinking about words spoken in conversation. Several of our very blunt friends look on the dark side so they have something to "criticize in love" or gossip about. I'm guilty of opening my mouth to speak without thinking, too. "Wise as foxes, but harmless as doves," was Jesus' instruction for believers. My words are sometimes more hurtful than that, though I may not have intended to wield a verbal knife.

We also lie by withholding useful truth. We keep a secret, recognizing that giving someone information would benefit them, give them power or respect in a situation, or be otherwise helpful. We keep it to ourselves for personal benefit, power, or authority.

God tells us all we need to know, and says, "Don't worry about what you don't understand. Live a loving life and follow the things I have told you." We can trust him for enough insight to guide us through life decisions like marriage, jobs, relocations, and relationships.

He is good and True. Wise and kind. I want to be like him.

Read more:
*If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible. Leviticus 5:1

*The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV

*Daniel answered and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.

I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king." Daniel 2:20-23 NIV

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lent Day 32: In our image

Art reflects the artist's worldview. A Japanese magazine cover from the late 1800s pictured Caucasian traders with slanted eyes and colorless skin. Art between the two World Wars used a lot of black for sorrow and red for blood, the stark ugly horrors of violence captured on canvas. And now, reflecting the abundance of food and expectations, they're super-sizing the Last Supper!

God made us in his image, and part of that is an ability to create and reflect on the world around us with art, music, maths, and words. If you painted your view of your family (or job or church), what would you canvas say - about it... and about you?

Read more:
*O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104:24 NLT

*I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. Psalm 145:1-3 NIV

*[Jesus said,] "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16 NLT

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lent Day 31: Trust me

"Follow my example, though I'm a no-good sinner. Not only that, but I am likely the worst sinner you've ever met!" Would you trust someone who talked like that? Admitted to being thoroughly bad, especially if they said it in public?

Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, who was modeling his life and ministry on Paul's. In it, he said, "Trust me! I'm the worst of sinners, and I know it, but..." Among his fellow countrymen, Paul had been known as one who wanted to please God in every way. He was fanatical in doing what he thought was right.

So why was he such a bad person? Was he a robber? An adulterer? A murderer? He did kill Christians, but only in his zeal to please God.

Paul told Timothy he knew that God showed mercy to him. The point was that Paul WOULD be an example of what God's true love and forgiveness look like. Even when we mess up a church or hurt someone with words that kill the soul and break apart a congregation, God is willing to extend mercy and reconciliation to the willing and repentant.

Maybe you're the one who caused a train wreck in someone's life or ministry. Maybe someone else ruined your reputation under the guise of Christian "honesty and love." Paul's example of repentance and confession encourages us to make it right and to forgive from the heart, like God does. Then all glory and praise goes to God, who does what we cannot fathom and loves beyond our human capacity.

Read more:
*Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 NIV

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lent Day 30: Fluency

"Anyone should be able to speak Mandarin. A whole country of children does! I'm an adult, so I should be able to pick it up." So said a friend who hoped to become fluent, tongue in cheek.

It's hard to learn new skills as an adult. Our culture tells us we can become anything we want to be, learn anything we want to know, do anything that interests us. But language, art, and music are intuitive as well as informational. So learning from childhood gives a boost and flexibility to tongue, brush, fingers, feet, and posture that adults may never achieve.

My kids gave me a wonderful Christmas present - a three month trial of Every evening, instead of passing time with a sitcom, I watch a master painter create color and depth and line. It looks so easy as he or she twirls the brush, dances it across the blank page. The colors blend. The artist knows exactly which pigments combine for tones and values. Long experience has taught each painter to manipulate the eye to create a portrait, landscape, or abstract.

I don't really care whether or not I ever acquire the skill to paint something wonderful. Seeing the fluency and instinctive corrections on the videos reminds me of musical improvisation. That I can do without thinking. I've done it since early childhood.

Maybe it is time to try a new art form. To experience the pleasure of another talent, even if I never become proficient. I will at least be further along than if I'd never tried!

Read more:

*Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 NLT

*Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

*Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Rev. 4:11 NLT

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lent Day 29: Forte

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: March 22
forte \FORT\ noun. Meaning: 1. something in which one excels : one's strong point; FORT-AY 2. Italian musical term = loud

CP is coming to Seattle. This "inspirational speaker" used to be a fiery evangelical preacher who advised presidents and led a church of 6000. Somewhere along the line he had a "Conversation with God" that convinced him that there is no hell. Next week, it costs only $40 to have him scratch our ears with this exciting news.

"Goings-On in Seattle" announces: "If you like your God as the type who gives everyone a pass to eternal rewards, then attend this. According to the speaker, gays, Muslims, and atheists (and presumably, terrorists, too) make it through the pearly gates." The writer mocks this premise, hinting at an obvious conclusion that there is no god or higher power, so why bother wasting your money on the lecture?

Sadly, speaking at 'forte' and CP's popularity doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about. Paul warned that even if an angel would bring another gospel, the Church must ignore it. I'm saddened because there will be eager listeners in Seattle's culture of "customize-your-own-gods." The writer to the Romans prophecies dire consequences for those who work against God's expectations and applaud others who do the same.

The OT prophets scoffed at pagans who took a piece of wood, carved it into a shape, and then worshiped it. "What kind of god is that?" they mocked. Well, apparently it's one that is again popular in the post-Christian West.

What kind of a God would let his creatures make up their own idea of him? Design their future and the universe in their own image? And remake him into an image of themselves?

Not the God of scripture who declares he is sovereign, beyond knowing, the Origin and Finisher of all things. The Same in the past, present, and future. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

He promised he will reign, in spite of the pitiful blathering of "special revelation" that holds him in contempt. His day of reckoning will be the ultimate forte.

Read more:
*Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One [Jesus foretold]. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me [foretelling the rule of Jesus], “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery."

Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

*Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

...Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:22-25; 28-32

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lent Day 28: Life and death

I've just come back from a funeral. It's a two and a half hour drive to Chilliwack, BC, if the border is friendly. The guards waved me through with little hassle when they found I was at a funeral. But I was over an hour late to the service, arriving just as the family was at the exit door, leaving the service. At least I got to join the graveside service, before a wonderful German lunch. Ohhhhh. Those pastries!

Why so late? My passport had fallen through the back of the storage drawer: I didn't find until I'd ransacked every possible hiding place... for an hour and a half. My shoes were on, coat and handbag sat in the car. The tea thermos waited between the seats. I wasn't too put out because I was planning to spend my day in travel; regardless of outcome, the day didn't belong to me. It was nice to find the little blue passport lying in the trough under the drawer. We travel quite a bit, so what I don't find today I have to search for on another day.

Tante Friedel was in her 80s, released from suffering. We celebrated a life well-lived with her husband, children, and grandchildren. I enjoyed the quick visit with old friends. Everyone's face is showing wear and tear, like my own face. Friends' kids are the age we were when we left town for Seattle. The people who were in their prime 40s are in their late 60s or 70s.

I was reminded that when we're dead, other people decide what they want to do at our memorials. They disburse our stuff without looking back. You can't always choose the time you go home, either. My husband's great-aunt is 104, and has talked about dying for at least eight years. She is sad that my father-in-law and her son went to heaven before her. She wonders, "Why has God taken them, and I am still here?" Her mind is sharp, but her hearing is gone, limiting interactions with others.

Every day is precious, not to be regained or relived. We accept our lifetime in God's schedule and from his hands. There's no fear in facing the transition to the next life. Perhaps eternity will mean we get to redo what we'd like to revisit. (Or maybe eternity is only progressive rather than cyclical.) I don't understand "forever" but know this time on earth is our gift. God lets us choose to love him, whether in life or death.

THAT makes me happy. Soul happy, on a day of au revoir and Auf Widersehen.

Read more:

*But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave. Psalm 49:15 NLT

*Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13 NIV

*Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:4-8 NIV

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Scottish Candle - romantic fiction

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

Liz Higgs retells the beloved Old Testament story of Ruth and Naomi, set in 18th Century Scotland. Visit the Lowlands in Here Burns My Candle. A mother who cannot face her future. A daughter who cannot escape her past. I really enjoyed this historical read! Enjoy the preview!

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her. Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips. Her mother-in-law, Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown. A timeless story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.

LIZ CURTIS HIGGS is the author of twenty-seven books with three million copies in print, including: her best-selling historical novels, Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Christy Award-winner Whence Came a Prince, and Grace in Thine Eyes, a Christy Award finalist; My Heart’s in the Lowlands: Ten Days in Bonny Scotland, an armchair travel guide to Galloway; and her contemporary novels, Mixed Signals, a Rita Award finalist, and Bookends, a Christy Award finalist. Visit the author’s extensive website at

This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Lent Day 27: Bird song

The finches chose a runt. They pecked at her until her neck is naked and her back is raw.

After various bird acquisitions and exchanges this winter, we have a plethora of cages. I set one up with food and water and started the rescue. Out came the big fish net I use to catch birds (4"X6"). As I stuck my hand past the plastic drop that guards the wide aviary door, the birds went berserk.

The suddenly peaceful cage erupted into panicked cheeps. Mad flapping. Hopping away on branches. Crazy flying into every corner and diving onto the floor. Soon I caught the little pecked pied finch. Caught a male to keep her company. They struggled in the net, hearts racing in my fist, little legs pushing in vain against my palm. I released them into the 18"X14"X14" cage, a far cry from their 3'X3'X5' aviary, and took them up to my office.

They cried to the other birds, who responded with loud chirps. Back and forth, between upstairs and down. They settled down enough to explore the perches and jump around the cage, complaining all the while. Later they settled down, sunned themselves in the window, ate some food, and drank some water. This morning they're at it again. Fretting. Anxious. Loudly peeping their resentment.

This may only take a week or two, but they don't know that. The female needs isolation to heal. Since they are community birds, the male will help the process by keeping her company. He's done nothing to deserve this. Nor has she.

Sometimes our lives are like the birds. God, who knows the bigger picture, not only keeps his eye on the sparrow. He watches over us with a tender care that we cannot fathom. These steep, narrow paths and bitter discomforts may actually be part of his loving kindness to us and those we love.

Read more:
*For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

*Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

*[Paul, about believers in Macedonia:] "They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do." 2 Corinthians 8:2–3, 5 NLT

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lent Day 26: Sunshine

There's something about the sun. It warms. Burns. Soothes. Makes us blink. "Everything in moderation" is a good rule. Even sun.

I had a nice bike ride to and from NU where I had to run another errand. I've cycled over 40 miles the last 3 days. The electric assist is a godsend since we live just on the other side of a 450' hill.

The air was crisp, the light was welcoming, so I did a long route home just to see what was new in the neighborhood. Not much. Lots of houses for sale, people relocating, downsizing or upgrading, or just getting out of town. On a sunny day like today it's easy to believe that God directs our paths.

When the rain comes back, it can feel a little trickier. Hope there's sunshine on your face today.

Read more:
*This is what the LORD says:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV

*But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lent Day 25: Thanks for health

Another one of our "old friends" died this week. She suffered a stroke and for almost a decade depended on others to help her get around. Finally, she spent the last few months in extended care, wishing and hoping for release. "I just want to go Home," she would say.

It was great to pull into the driveway after a 19 mile pedal round-trip for lunch today. "You can be grateful for your health," said Mom when we talked on the phone.

I agree. Every day is a gift from God. Those with health challenges know how long and painful a day can be. Often we don't know how wonderful it is to be well until we lose our mobility or independence.

Even as we say goodbye to Tante Friedel this weekend, we thank God for his presence, whether in easy or difficult days. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He paid a mighty ransom to purchase us for himself. And when life ends, we go to be with him. That's real hope and comfort.

Read more:

*For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NLT

*Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV

*For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies." 2 Corinthians 5:1–3 NLT

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lent Day 24: Rest day

Jesus withdrew from people to refresh his spirit. I took heart from that and did very little today. Tidied kitchen. Napped. Took a bike ride. Put books back on the shelves after the big push yesterday.

What other God/god encourages people to rest, rather than work ourselves to death? And what other people are so worried about doing more and more to earn his favor and good standings with others?

Read more:

*Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments,and his paths beyond tracing out!

"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NIV

*But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 NIV

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lent Day 23: Finally done

The weight of six months has rolled off my shoulders. I've just sent the assignment that had my brain in knots off to my prof.

The problem was not that there was too little info. The topic was the integration of spiritual disciplines into church history. Way too much is written on both topics. I have three pages of "Sources Consulted" - and we can only document books we actually use. The final paper was nearly 60 pages long, with appendixes. Ugh. Too long.

The hardest part for me is sorting, paring down, and trying to make sense through the thicket of what is important and what can be dismissed. Once again, the work of months has wrapped up. Hopefully it is satisfactory to my prof.

Next up is the big deal, my dissertation. A few years of work lie ahead, and then I'll breath another sign of relief and a, "Finally done!"

Read more:
*"The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep." Ecclesiastes 12:11 NLT [OK, I admit, this verse made me laugh and wince.]

*May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. Psalm 67:5-7 NIV

*So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lent Day 22: An eye for an eye

One bumper sticker on the van ahead of me in traffic reads, "What would Jesus bomb?" and the one right beside it says, "An eye for an eye, and the whole world is blind."

The driver misses the point twice. Jesus indicated no political leanings besides, "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

The second saying did not originate as revenge. Expressing God's desire for protection within an uncivilized slave culture, the "eye for an eye" law acted as a limiter of revenge. You could not take more from your adversary than was taken from you, JUST an eye for an eye. No more. You couldn't kill someone for making you lame or knocking out your tooth. Judging from current Middle Eastern temperaments, taking an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth and calling it "justice, done, finito!" would be a big improvement.

Jesus went a step further and said, "If your enemy demands you walk a mile with them (probably carrying their heavy pack), offer to carry it a second mile. Turn another cheek to be struck, rather than hitting back." And hardest of all to swallow: "God your Father will forgive you in the same measure you forgive those who have offended you."

Who bugs you or did you harm? Can you place them into God's care with a prayer for blessing rather than cursing, and entrust yourself to the merciful hand of God for your own sins?

Read more:
*But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3 NLT

*Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name." Daniel 9:17-19 NIV

*Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 NIV

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lent Day 21: Declogging

There's no such word as declogging, I don't think. But taking an hour to delete 400 emails in my main account should give me permission create a word.

I wonder how many times God "declogs" us. We accumulate sin, soul clutter, and messages from here and there that we haven't processed. We wonder why our hearts are disturbed and not in the perfect rest God promised.

Maybe it's time for some quiet meditation, some thoughtful reading, or processing the junk sticking to our souls. Maybe we need a bit of solitude, time away from the noise of life under which we bury our spirits.

You game for a declogging pause today? Begin restoration with 15 minutes of heart-searching, dropped into your lunch hour. Spend time in a quiet park or settled in a comfy chair in a corner of the house.

Read more:
*May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. Psalm 119:41-45 NIV

*Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. Ecclesiastes 7:3–4 NLT

*Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Prov. 16:32 NLT

*Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Cor. 7:1 NLT

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Two new "young fiction" titles

I've just browsed two new books from the publishers: Raven's Ladder and Lady Carliss. If you know some young teens who like fantasy and adventure, they might like these two novels. Source: These books were provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Raven's Ladder (The Auralia Thread) by Jeffrey Overstreet offers wild stretches of imagination. Kings, queens, the princess, strange characters fight between good and evil in Overstreet's mysterious world. A great escape novel that will leave you wondering if you caught all the strands of the story. To learn more about this book or purchase it at click on the link.

Lady Carliss, by Chuck Black, is a parable of God's love for us and the ongoing fight against Darkness. Told as the story of knighthood in the Kingdom series, Carliss is an intrepid heroine who wields her sword against deception and dark forces. Will be published by Multnomah, March 16, 2010.

To learn more about this book or purchase it at click on the link. Enjoy!

Lent 20: Bigger than ourselves

One of the top stories on the Web is about "Jihad Jane," a seemingly normal neighbor who took care of her boyfriend's father by day and was recruited by extreme Muslims online.

"No suspicions. Didn't even seem religious," said her boyfriend, until she disappeared to Europe with his passport so she could marry a Muslim terrorist. She, on the other hand, wrote she would have no compunctions about knocking him off. Seeing him dead.

W and I have talked over the years about the desire of humanity to be involved with something "bigger than ourselves." We are made to live large and contribute. Our Creator offers us life with mystery, direction, and purpose. But we rebels keep trying to find our own paths, with attendant disaster. Surrender would mean having to let Someone tell us what to do and how to live.

Buckle under? Be obedient? "Not me! I'm gonna do it my way!" shouts the individualist. Regardless of consequences.

When we share Jesus, his cross, and resurrection, we're not offering a palliative or placebo to numb our boredom and uselessness. "Power, glory, wealth, honor, majesty" - those are words associated with God. When we substitute words like "rules, regulations, escape, conformity," we dilute the Life that surges into the grave and raises the dead, overcomes powerful opposition, and overwhelms humanity with abundance and joy.

No need to be seduced by terrorists or self-medicate with cheap thrills when you are part of something As Big As That!

Read more:
*Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness. Ecclesiastes 10:13 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

*Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Rev. 4:11 NIV

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lent Day 19: Good people

"I support him 100 percent," said Irene Folstrom, who said she dated [Tiger] Woods in the mid-1990s when they were undergrads at Stanford University. "Of course, he was unfaithful and he has his faults, but he is really a good person." (CNN, March 10, 2010)

Culture has turned morals upside down. Seemingly, all it takes to be a 'good' person is to have friends who will speak up for us and defend us, regardless of our behavior. In today's world, killing pre-birth children is fine, but disturbing the nest of turtles on the Galapagos Islands is wrong. Living together outside of marriage is a 'good test' for compatibility, but littering is immoral.

Scripture lays out clear principles for human happiness and well-being. How many of these are important to our culture? How often do we look the other way because people we like - 'good people' - are setting aside moral choices for willful lawlessness that a few generations ago would have been roundly condemned by society? Such common-sense morality includes:

*Venerate only God - others will disappoint us with their imperfections.
*Don't steal - everything belongs to God, who provides for our needs.
*Tell the truth - honesty even when it hurts us spares others much grief and show us to be trustworthy.
*Avoid lust and adultery - humans thrive with faithful, trustworthy love that brings security to a family. (A family consists of one man, one woman, and children - don't confuse the kids with multiple mamas or papas.)
*Watch the tongue; don't gossip - we can destroy a reputation; many words lead to sin.
*Eat and drink in moderation - excesses of gluttony, alcoholism, and substance abuse destroy a healthy body.
*Honor parents and others in authority - harmony and order in society depend on it.

The "dos" and "do nots" of scripture are simple. They are not designed to prohibit pleasure. Rather, like the lines on a highway, they provide boundaries that allow us to live life in community with direction, fullness, and abundance.

Which of God's principles are you most tempted to break? Look back to see where that broken part of your character has produced unwanted consequences or destruction. Ask God's help to align yourself with his wise guidelines today.

Read more:
*Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. Psalm 37:27-29 NLT

*(David) "Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice." Psalm 51:4, 7–8 NLT

*When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13-15 NIV

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lent Day 18: Eclectic

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day:
eclectic \ih-KLEK-tik\ adjective: 1. selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles; 2. composed of elements drawn from various sources

Example Sentence: The new downtown restaurant offers an eclectic mix of appetizers and entrees at reasonable prices.

Life is full of surprises. And that's part of what keeps it fun and interesting. There are few things more boring than a matching room, where every accessory, every piece of furniture, is from the same manufacturer. The eye slides over the homogeneous mass and can't register focal points.

The best designers try to combine a variety of styles, eras, and locations-of-origin that reflect the interests of the family living in the room. The trend continues to be "roughing up" new furniture to make it looked lived-in and cherished. Where my folks' generation wanted everything spik and span, or shiny and unused, today's fad is aged, antiqued, traveled, and well-loved. Maybe our search for heritage comes from the many times we change houses for work and life moves.

It's good to remember that a perfect, smooth life, plastic slipcovers still in place, is unappealing as well. Those around us, caught in crises or mauled by a vicious storm, want to know that Christ is enough to bring them through. We are only convincing about God's sufficiency when we've known him as Faithful and True in all the eclectic challenges that come our way.

Read more:
*Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28 NEV

*Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life. Ecclesiastes 7:14 NLT

*Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

Monday, March 8, 2010

New titles - book reviews

Need some refreshing Christian fiction? Click on the title to order your copy of these titles. Be sure to check out related titles in the series (check at Amazon for other titles).

by Robin Jones Gunn tells the story of Jessica, who moves to a new town to start a new life. But a friendly fire-fighter and a suspicious boss both want to know what she’s hiding. As the story unfolds, romance follows. You'll enjoy this on a girls' road trip!

Faithful Heart

by Al and Joanna Lacy – combines history with romantic fiction. Step back in time to the adventures of certified medical nurse and dedicated Christian Breanna Baylor continue as she travels by wagon train to visit her sister, Dottie, in California. Little does she know that her most dangerous encounter might be with Jerrod, her brother-in-law, who’s suffering from dementia caused by combat fatigue.

Though they are light reading, both books are well-written around an interesting story and characters. Enjoy! These books were provided by the publishers for review.

Lent Day 17: Complicit sinners

"They're sleeping together," my friend said about her daughter and the boyfriend. She shrugged. "At least we know about it. I hope they're being careful."

My grandma would have marched over to her child, pulled two apart kicking and screaming (she and the couple, if necessary), and fallen on her face before God to fast and pray for the sinners.

My parents' generation would warn and pray, asking God to intervene. They would probably extend God's love to such a couple, and ask God to convict, knowing that all of us make our own choices with consequences.

My generation is so dulled by the adultery and bad marriages around us that we are at the shrugging point. Most of us would not venture a judgment to the couple. "Well, everyone chooses their own path, and they know better."

Does that make us complicit in their sins? We know we ourselves are so broken that it's hard to "cast the first stone," even before conviction strikes. Jesus said the person without sin was to begin the punishment on a woman found in adultery. I couldn't throw that first stone.

However, he never hesitated to say, "Go and sin no more." When am I willing to follow his example, and when do I look the other way, knowing the price he paid to offer us new life?

Read more:
*The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The LORD is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name — He is holy. Psalm 99:1-3 NKJV

*"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." Isaiah I:18 NET

*Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lent Day 16: Life hacker

Lifehacker is a cool website. Learn anything from keeping a home inventory to patching drywall to hiding electronic cords to doing computer hacks. It makes everything we need to know sound simple and doable.

Sometimes we wish there was a for life questions. What if we could just punch in a website and have the future solved or the past resolved, with all its messy relationships, failures, and "If only..."s?

God goes one better. The cross covers the past, present, and future, but teaches us from our mistakes. The selective amnesia of being forgiven means we can learn and grow, do better next time, love more, and serve with heart. Our scriptural instruction manual may give principles for most situations, rather than hard-and-fast rules.

But isn't living more fun - as well as more scary and more adventurous! - with so much freedom to experience life, holding the hand of God?

Read more:
*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

*Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death. Psalm 68:19-20 NIV

*Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 1 Peter 1:2-4 NIV

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lent Day 15: Writing and reading

"First, you need a topic that interests you. Then, you get permission to write to that." So said the chair of the Missions section at SPS (Society of Pentecostal Scholars), who leads the PhD program I'm in.

Because I presented a paper at SPS 2009, he gave other students the go-ahead to write this year. "Don't worry," he said to me. "Someone will back out, and you'll be able to do your paper. Go ahead and write it."

He was right. Someone else did not have time. I pulled information together last summer, but didn't have time to start writing until I was sure I was on the docket. Apparently I quit work at the university just in time: I got a hard deadline one Friday night, the day after I had wrapped up my job. "The paper is due Monday," wrote the chair. I spent 40 hours that weekend writing. Three minutes after the "FINAL! really, final" deadline in February, I hit "Send" to submit my paper. A minute later, the chair sent it on its way to the Society for publication. Whew.

This morning, I read the paper aloud to a group of fellow scholars. It was well received. The pleasure I get from knowing this information makes the subject a good fit for my revised dissertation topic. (I changed topics last Saturday, and will confirm that with two professors at supper today!)

All the speakers at this conference have affirmed that God is able to lead Pentecostals. He confirms his direction with the story of the rest of his work in the world. I've gone ahead as well as I could, trusting that God would direct my path.

Just in time, before I plunge into research design for the dissertation in coming weeks, God redirected my interests to write about missionary women in early Pentecost. I can't wait to get back home to study!

Read more:
*Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT

*Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV

*Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- -the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 NIV

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lent Day 14: Midnight in Minneapolis

When I was young, I never expected to reach Minneapolis. The name of the town didn't even cross my mind. I was born Canadian, happily part of the true north strong and free. When we thought of travel, it was, "Europe, sure. Our neighbour to the south, probably not."

My first year of marriage was also my first living in the USA. The cultural shock was unexpected, and inoculated me against some of the fondest values of my adopted country. Fast food, take it or leave it. Shopping in the mall, don't enjoy it. Signing petitions, not interested. Voting every fall for something or other, gives me a headache to see all the money, time, and energy wasted on campaigning that could be spent on solutions.

That said, there are a lot of great things about living down here. People are individualists, and expect to be allowed to do quirky things. Start-ups are common, and failures are just learning experiences. Trends spring up and die easily: seemingly anything new goes with the attitude of "this one might be my lucky ticket." The next great invention will revolutionize life as we know it. Any occasion deserves a party. There are a lot of choices.

God is full of surprises for his children. Our being part of the Society of Pentecostal Scholars is one of his unexpected gifts to us. We're spending part of a week in Minnesota with a great group of people from the USA and home. These scholars are hunting for answers and discussing important questions. Some of them have become good friends, too. You never know where the journey will take you. What a surprise to be awake at midnight in Minneapolis.

Read more:
*For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a NLT

*Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." Micah 4:2 NIV

*(Jesus) "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." Matthew 18:20 NEV

Lent Day 13: Knowing about God

You would have thought we'd know everything by now. I'm not saying that in arrogance. I'm just remarking on how people constantly find an interest and want to know more about it. You'd think we'd have found out all there is to know about grasses, mammals, fish, protons, nebulae, and sand.

But nope! Here comes a new species, found at the bottom of the ocean or in some distant desert. There's a new galaxy, and wait - could it have three planets? Might we live there some day? No, it's too far. Maybe if we develop a new kind of time-warp spaceship... and off goes the thinker to tinker with ideas.

Scholarly conferences aren't like other places I've gone. Serious looking people (often in suits) read their papers on some bit of science, theology, scripture, or other studies. Listeners respond with questions or a designated respondent reads a studious response: "I agree because," or "That can't be right, because," or "Did the good Doctor So-and-so think of...?"

It must give God great pleasure to watch us puzzle our way through his creation. So many things to explore. So many ideas to ponder. And so much socializing in the process, people coming together with serious intent, eating and arguing, questioning and considering.

We'll be at such a conference this week, and I'm looking forward to the new faces and new ideas. Both W and I present papers. We read our papers to each other this week, stifling yawns once in a while as we listened. It's not that we aren't absorbed by the other's work, but how different our interests! He's into theology, a simple but profound insight on Pentecost that no one else has published. I'm interested in stories and spiritual networks, bringing observations on early twentieth century Pentecostal missionary wives.

Hopefully God will be pleased with our work. We enjoyed getting to know more about him and his work among us in the process.

Read more:
*Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NIV

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lent Day 12: Every day is enough

What's ahead today? I kept a picture in my former office with a reminder: "Everything settled into place once she realized there was time enough for all the important things."

We can plan out our days - and God knows what is coming our way.

I have a long checklist for today, including:
- Morning consultation with a mentor, 9.30-1
- Write an abridged version of a paper for Friday's presentation at a conference
- Write a birthday card and note to my brother
- Finish the two other cards I started this week for mailing tomorrow
- Clean the beta fish tanks in my office
- Prune and spray the trees along the driveway (all 12 of them)
Ok, there's a longer list of "to-do"s that won't get done today, just like the trees. With our warm weather, it's not a good thing to make the pruning wait another week. Oh well.

I'm so thankful that I'm not omniscient - that I don't know what is coming. Every day is a gift from God, and every day our only responsibility is to listen for God's voice, and to work at what we hear to the best of our ability. What's on your plate today?

Read more:
*"Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly. The words of the wise are like cattle prods—painful but helpful. Their collected sayings are like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep.

But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out. That's the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone's duty." Ecclesiastes 12:9–13 NEV

*Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 NEV

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lent Day 11: Soul hunger

We set out to follow a spiritual discipline with high hopes. Along with the Lent discipline of blogging, I periodically 'indulge' my spirit in other formation exercises. One of them is fasting. Jesus told us to fast in secret, to dress normally, to keep the deprivation between God and us. That said, confidentiality is the hardest part of fasting for me. It's not that I care if anyone knows I'm not eating. The big thing is that I'm out of sorts, crabby towards everyone who walks by.

Downstairs, the finches are fighting in their cage. They're flapping from one of the cage to another, swooping up and down, chasing each other from branch to branch. They sound a lot like my stomach feels during a fast. A constant internal ruckus prevails. ("I'm hungry! How much longer? Is this doing any good?") Discomfort is exacerbated by all the food in the kitchen cupboards, a plethora of picture cookbooks, and ads for food on radio and TV.

Fasting reminds us to be grateful for the food God provides. Not to take the blessings on provision for granted. To pray and plead to God for provision for those who have less, or who have nothing at all. (25,000 children die of starvation daily, according to UN statistics.)

Any discipline must cost something. Fasting requires a hard "NO!" to the temptations of food and -- most of all for me -- tea. When the time is past, I am so thankful to eat and say good-bye to the day or days. I don't know how well I learn my lessons or how formed my character is by such abstinence. Disciplines are putting on, and taking off.

Even as the little birds remind me, God takes care of us all and watches over us. He is in charge of calling us to partner with him in easy and difficult things, to form us into the image of his son. Soul hunger can only be satisfied by him.

Read more:
*A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28

*Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the LORD says: "The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master's care—but Israel doesn't know its master." Isaiah 1:2–3 NLT

*For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13