Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Person space

Every person lives in their person space, large or small. To think the whole house, its silence, and 24 hours a day belonged to me just yesterday! After two weeks at home without my husband, I was wondering how his return would affect my own space. He's busy. Busy. BUSY. Did I say busy?

Here's what happened, besides enjoying the company of my dear husband:
  • The entry filled up, emptied again. Luggage, tools, miscellaeous stuff. It came. It went, along with the stack of his mail.
  • We snacked an extra 7-800 calories each last night: almonds and licorice and chips. While sitting in bed reading. (And I've been SOOOOooo good for 2 weeks!)
  • We took the dog for a short walk this morning, so I skipped my exercise class. I overextended a few joints last weekend, and that's a good excuse. But my top reason is that there's too much prep for the weekend. I knew I was in for multiple interruptions rather than an open, unscheduled day.
  • We drove to Snoqualmie for lunch and to pick up a patio heater. We also dropped by the college so W could gather his mail and check in. Three hours later, both of us tackled our work at home.
  • I cooked two sit-down meals for us, breakfast and supper, rather than snatching a quick meal between work and play.
  • It's night, time to bring in the feather quilts from the deck railing, and settle down to read before bed. I'm just bringing along a few pieces of chocolate. Honest!
My own space? Still plenty of it. I devoted it to getting rid of eight finches (gone in a day = the power of Craigslist free), called the house-sitter (thanks, T!), confirmed the doggie drop-off at the dog-sitter, finished my coursework for next week, wrapped up the class PPTs, and organized the student material to be copied.

I almost broke down to bake "vegan chocolate chocolate almond chocolate chip" cookies (me messing with a basic recipe = killer!) But I'd have to eat them in the next few days. Maybe not.

There's no room in my person for more treats after a full day like today.

Read more:
*Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." Psalm 66:1-4 NIV

*Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,  for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pure perfection!

"Oh, Christianity is just rules. Don't do this, don't do that! I want to be free to do my own thing!" I've heard that a time or two. Most people who say this know nothing about the freedom Christians enjoy, resting in Christ to live life to the full.

The 10 Commandments aren't designed just to "make us mind." They point out God's high expectations for alignment with God's character. Yet who of us has never disrespected God, lied, stolen, looked lustfully at another person, or coveted someone's "stuff?" When we "break" a commandment, we trespass against the holiness and purity of God. We become warped, increasingly imperfect specimens of humanity.

Reading through Psalm 119: 89-97 this morning reminds me that there is one who is perfect. How blessed we are to have that perfection attributed to us when we shelter under the cross of Christ.

Who is this wonderful God, who not only provides the Standard, but extends such favor to us? Who is the One who offers us wholeness?
  • Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. HE IS UNCHANGING
  • Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. HE IS FAITHFUL
  • Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. ...ENDURING
  • If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. ...SUSTAINING
  • I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. ...PRESERVING
  • Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. ...RESCUING
  • The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. ...GOOD
  • To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless. ...LIMITLESS
  • Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. ...BEAUTIFUL
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. ...A LIGHT TO FOLLOW

Now that's perfection worth celebrating and a God worth emulating!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Holy yoga. ?

Last year, I heard about something called Holy Yoga, exercise sessions started in Arizona. I was pretty interested. My back has been bothering me from hunching over books and computer. Yoga-style stretches would give my back and neck a workout. I backed away, wondering how a mix of Christian meditation and Hindu-originated postures could work together.

Then last week, I bought a $20 Seattle Groupon for 20 sessions of "Hot Yoga," whatever that was. The coupon arrived Tuesday last week, so I started the ordeal. I figured even if I went once and my back could relax, I would almost break even: regular exercise sessions are $17-23.

I'm utterly disinterested in yoga as a component of Hindu religion. Hinduism conflicts with the very foundations of Christianity. I definitely wouldn't recommend yoga exercises for young believers or do them in Asia, where the religious context is irrevocably interlinked. However, at this American gym, hot yoga is an exercise class without religious words or Hindu overtones.

Every day this week and last (with Sunday off), I've unrolled a mat in a gym room with 20-30 sweating others. We do 26 exercises in the same order, day after day, in a room heated to 105-110 degrees. Sometimes the instructor forgets to turn on the fans. (Hot hot hot, is right.)

Every second day, my body cooperates, more or less. My body remembers being flexible and balanced, once upon a time. I can stretch face to knee or lay the back of my head on the mat, elbows overhead, while knees and feet are under my back. But I never can lock one leg and twist myself into a pretzel. I've yet to lean forward on one leg and kick back with the other leg held in the air. Wobble, wobble, try again. Wobble.

But I definitely, unabashedly hate every other day. I can't bend, can't reach, and topple over at the slightest suggestion of standing on one locked knee. The temperature feels like 150o, I'm nauseated, and passing out seems distinctly possible. I lay down flat on my mat with other overheated students. We try to breathe and stay in the room, instead of bolting. The discipline of going to the gym helps keep me working. "Tomorrow will be easier," I tell myself after a really bad day.

I was concerned about the mish-mash of Eastern religious ideals with exercises. Instead, I found that the pauses between poses spotlighted the contrast between Eastern religions and Christianity. "Focus on one spot, think of your breathing, empty your mind to relax," says the instructor. "This focus will help you get through the day - it will help you empty your mind of stress."

But as I'm stretching, my whole being reverberates with the Bible verses and chapters I have read this morning or before sleep last night. My heart swells with amazement as I ponder, "Our Father who art in heaven," or "Christ in you, the hope of glory." The psalms I have memorized sing loudly with my hammering pulse, or I pray the Jesus Prayer: (inhale) "Lord      Jesus      Christ, (exhale) have mercy      on me,      a sinner,"

By the time we're done, my mind is overflowing with the splendor and awe of worship, I've prayed for those working out beside me, and my heart has loudly exulted in the Lord our God. Instead of striving for calm emptiness like those around me, I walk out empowered to face the day's stressors, having delighted in the beauty of God's plan of salvation and the fullness of the Presence.

I am struck each morning by the contrast in philosophy and faith: emptiness or fullness. We get to choose through our core commitment for or against Christ, focusing our minds while our bodies streeettttchhh this way and that. By committing my life to Jesus, I have chosen the fullness of Christ, the hope of the gospel, rather than the empty self-realization of the world.

I'm debating whether to continue. So far, I'm 95% against doing this regularly, just because I don't want to be lured into any other religious practice. This season of reflection and meditation on God's goodness has truly been a gift from the Lord, restoring a flexibility I'd forgotten and healing my aching back. Best of all, I've had time to think about how I love my Savior and how much I appreciate his holiness and his protection. Oh, how I've enjoyed these set-apart hours of devotion, daily time to focus on the beauty of our faith.

But to find him so near in a gym doing yoga stretches? That's a surprise, for sure. "Oh Rosemarie, what next!" my mother would say.

Read more:
*Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Psalm 71:17-19 NIV

*For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17 NKJV

*In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but 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. Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV 

Reneging on a handshake

I'm kinda ticked. Sonia and I (and her mother) shook hands over sending Spike to their place for 2-3 weeks this summer. I gave Sonia some good-will money up front to hold a good deal for her and me - she's young, and this is great summer pay for a kid who will walk and play with my dog.

Yesterday I got an email saying, "Hope all is well. How about more money? My mom thought I should ask for more." What? She asked a small amount - $5 a day to keep our dog for a final week. But we had an agreement for a set amount for 2-3 weeks. I probably would have given her the same amount in a tip for a job well-done.

I asked my son what he thought. "To keep good will, I'd just pay the money. She might be a good resource in the future."

Maybe she will be a good resource. But it bothers me that an arrangement was so easily forgotten. That a child is being taught that more is better... and it is okay to go back on a contract. I will pay, but I'm not sure I trust her or her mom as much as I did at our first meeting.

There have been many times when I have gone back on my word as well. Not lived up to my obligations. Disappointed people, and lived to regret my dishonesty, greed, or lack of manners.

I'm glad God is utterly trustworthy. He never reneges on his promises. His faithfulness endures forever, and his Word is his bond. He even promised to forgive us as we would forgive those who trespassed against us. Whew. Let me get out my wallet right now!

Read more:
*O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. Isaiah 25:1 NKJV

*Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him,  we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 NIV

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pleasant places

Pleasant places. We want life to be full of them. But Psalm 23 talks both about green pastures and the valley of the shadow of death. Most of us would choose the first over the last.

It's easy to forget that the sun shines when we're in the middle of a rainy day. And when it's going great, we forget those overwhelmed by rain and floods. We just had a fine day in Seattle, but across the continent, people are experiencing tornadoes (Billings, MT), floods (Medicine Hat, AL), and oil sludge (SE USA).

I wonder how much of our indifference to those who suffer is because we expect life to be good. We are surprised when people die, when our children or parents get ill, or when we lose our homes and bank accounts. Yet few escape the consequences of humanity's selfish ambition, greed, and carelessness that unleash catastrophes of sickness, broken relationships, and poverty.

Sometimes I wonder how much of our casual dismissal of tragedy elsewhere in the world is a subconscious warding-off of the possibility that it could happen to us. War, famine, refugee hunger. With a phone call or stroke of a pen, a country can be committed to conflict and a nation's destiny turns from prosperity to conflict and desperation. A heated wind touches cool water, and a hurricane is born. The earth shifts, and homes and shops quake into scrap heaps.

We don't know when we will face trouble, but we know it is coming. Those of us who have made God our refuge live in the security that he will keep us safe in his care. If we die, he takes us to himself. He knows when our lives are done.

The most pleasant place of all? Resting in our Savior's love and protection, no matter what the circumstances.

Read more:
*LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:5-8 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

*Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 NIV

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not quite perfect

 Church has changed - dress is casual compared to 20 years ago. That parallels an openness about not pretending things are ok, every day. I walked to church this morning, wearing flip-flops. Once again, I enjoyed meeting people who are interested in a life of faith. Most were dressed in jeans or other casual wear.

When I was little, you'd better believe that we dressed up for church. We'd never dare let anyone know our life wasn't hunky-dory. No one needed to know that we weren't free of sinful habits, that we'd fought with our spouse on the way to church, that our kids were rebelling. Ongoing challenges might imply that Jesus was "not big enough" to solve our problems or that we weren't serious about being Christians.

Of course, in a fallen world there have to be crises and brokenness. A place that is perfect would be heaven.

Whether trouble comes from within ourselves, from relationships with others, or from circumstances beyond our control, we need not be surprised. We all know we're not without flaws (unless we're in denial). Our shortcomings and the faults of others will inevitably produce conflicts.

As I looked through the rows of folding chairs in the school gym, I sighed with relief to know that God IS big and wise enough. He will see each of us through the delights and tragedies of life. He's there for every bit - including the mediocre - between, too. No pretending needed!

Read more:
*I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3 NKJV

*The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.
 One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. Psalm 27:1-5 NKJV

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The mind of a princess

In 1980, Sweden became the first European monarchy where boy or girl could inherit the kingdom from their father. Little brother Carl Philip was just 7 months old when his older sister Victoria became Crown Princess.

This girl has a mind of her own. Eight years ago Victoria fell in love with her physical trainer, commoner David Westling. She persevered with her choice, and this weekend they walked down the aisle of the Church of Sweden to be married. The country was in a furor: she asked her father to walk her down the aisle, reverting - according to critics - to an archaic Anglo-Saxon custom.

People were enraged that she was not following the Swedish tradition of bride and groom walking in equality together down the aisle. "Critics referred to the Anglo-Saxon practise as "sexist" and a "backlash for feminism", and the row, dubbed Altargate, started." The royal family argued that this was not just a man handing off an adult woman, but the King giving his approval to the heir (or in this case, heiress.)

(from the news:) "Nine bishops wrote a letter to the bridal couple, asking them to change their mind. Helle Klein, influential editorial writer for the tabloid Aftonbladet, urged the Archbishop to intervene. 'Bride handover builds on an attitude towards women which takes us several centuries back. As a role model the Crown Princess should consider this,' she wrote.

To no avail. What a princess wants, a princess gets. She gave in a bit, though. Instead of walking her all the way to the front, her dad handed her over halfway down the aisle. And the couple was wed. With her strong will and willingness to negotiate her special day, she may be a very good ruler in her time.

Read more:
*Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 NEV

*I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyonefor kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all menthe testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6 NIV

*You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13-14 NIV

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sandpaper people

asperity \uh-SPAIR-uh-tee\ noun
Meaning: 1. roughness; 2. harshness of manner or of temper
Example Sentence: When asked to make a contribution, Roger glared and said with asperity,"I gave at the office."
I love gentle people. They approach life with softness and a quiet spirit. Sadly, I'm more apt to answer with asperity than softness. Growing up with three brothers, a sister learns to stake a claim on her space and place. (And to eat quickly.)

Several of my friends are gifted with a sweet nature that spreads friendship and kindness around them. Both women and men flock to their circle to feel cared for. Included. Like insiders. 
Jesus was like that, naturally and supernaturally drawing people to himself by making them feel special. Like God took notice of them.
I love to be around tender-hearted folk, too. It's been an education beyond college and books to watch their skills with people. Hopefully those of us with rough edges keep working hard to sand them down to become easier to be around. 

Read more:
*You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages]. Isaiah 26:3-4 Amplified Bible
*Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7-11 NIV 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Late again!

Time flies when you're having fun. And it crawls when you're waiting or doing unpleasant work. Scripture says to "redeem" the time, to use it wisely, and not to waste it. That means different things to different people.

Some people seem naturally gifted at spending time. We all get the same amount, day in and out. I know a few "time superstars." They are focused, productive, and never rushed. They seem to achieve all their goals without anxiety. Their friends feel loved and nourished without being shoehorned into a schedule, but allowed to flow in and out of life without hurry. It's not that my "time heroes" have no boundaries or no tasks to get done. Quite the opposite! But there's an orderliness to their spending. Like accountants who develop a good budget, these time managers build in flex and flow.

Some people look at their watches or day-timers and think they can wedge "one more thing" into the schedule. They run perpetually late because there is no margin built into the day - everything is crammed to the max so that one item running behind puts the whole time edifice into jeopardy.

These people are seldom more productive than others, and they annoy their friends by demanding conformation to a new timetable without warning. Theirs. It's easy to get irritated when someone infringes on our schedules. "How dare they think their time is more valuable than mine?" For us impatient wait-ers, remembering that all time belongs to God - and each minute is his gift - helps us balance our wants with others' needs and habits.

I'm sometimes a time offender. I'll see "a little something" needing to be done, and start impulsively on a quick task. "Oh, I can put this away in a hurry." As I'm waiting for my husband at the door, I think, "I'll just fix that. I'll be right out," making me the last one out the door and supposedly the "late one." If a client and I have a meeting time and he or she runs late, I'll make a phone call or get started on a new job. (Easily distracted - that's for sure.) Then I'm unprepared for their arrival. Probably seems like I'm late. Again.

Jesus never seemed to be running from place to place. No one mentions his impatience in waiting for others, either. His culture was different, but that's not the whole story. He had thirty years of growing up and maturing and about three "ministry" years to accomplish a Herculean task, bringing salvation to the world. I'm encouraged by his ease with people coming and going, yet "doing the Father's business" without frantic scurrying. He spent some waking nights of prayer, but built in rest and time to come aside with his disciples.

I want to approach my work and ministry with his calm heart, open to his guidance each part of the day or night. Now there's a worthy challenge for today!

Read more:

*Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. A good man obtains favor from the LORD, but the LORD condemns a crafty man.A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted. Proverbs 12:1-3 NIV

*Be very careful, then, how you livenot as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.Ephesians 5:15-21 NIV

Friday, June 11, 2010

Good at something

It takes a lot of practice and persistence to be exceptional at something. The World Cup football championship is held every four years. It's the world's biggest sporting event, bigger than the Olympics, bigger than the Superbowl, bigger than the Stanley Cup. It also lasts forever - they won't have a champion team until mid-July! The winners probably have played soccer all their lives, and certainly have devoted themselves to disciplined regimens of rehearsals and deprivation. No Krispy Cremes for them this year!

We're all good at something. My Uncle Erich is champion at cooking and baking German food. This morning I called to find out how to make Hefekuchen (literally "yeast-cake"), a sweet coffeecake with Streusel (butter/sugar/flour crumbs) on top.

My grandma, my aunts (and Uncle E), my mother-in-law, W's aunts... all imported the specialty from Europe and put their spin on it. I flipped through two German cookbooks to see if I could find a good recipe.

"Just call Uncle Erich!" Mom said. "He makes the best one!"

So I called him in Winnipeg. (Clap your hands across a map of Canada, and Winnipeg is bottom and center.) "Put in... oh, I don't know how much flour. I don't measure. Half fill one of those mixers with the hook. Your Auntie Molly and I have had that mixer for over 30 years, still in the old house. It's lasted a long time [KitchenAid]." Our chat brought back a lot of memories.

He explained the ingredients and the process along with his own tips: "In trade school, we learned that yeast doesn't like to mix with fat, so put in the yeast mixture last."

He also gave assurances of eventual success: "Every time you bake this cake, you'll get better. Pretty soon it will taste pretty good."

Luckily, 40-some years of baking experience assist with a "bit of this and that" kind of recipe. The cake is rising in the oven as I write. We'll see if it's tastes like beginner's luck or beginner's disaster.

I do know is it's not the World Cup Final kind of cake Uncle Erich makes, time after time. It's more like trying to kick a goal in high school, when you've casually played soccer with friends.

Read more:
* Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 NIV 

*Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty! Proverbs 14:23 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

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


MWebster's Word of the Day: delegate \DEL-uh-gayt\verb
Meaning: *1 : to entrust to another; 2 : to appoint as one's representative; 3 : to assign responsibility or authority

Example Sentence: In order to get everything done on time, the committee leader chose to delegate some of the minor tasks to junior members.
Productivity 501 just sent me a list of 100 things I can outsource. I laughed as I read it. I'm the outsource for most of the list. Our kids, who learned to work by doing chores that we didn't have energy for, are grown and gone. My husband is busy, and my servants are appliances.

Instead of delegating tasks to another person, I'm now delegating my time to get things done. Walk or bike when we get up. Make a cup of tea. Get email and write blog (maybe). Then get to work on school stuff. Yesterday was a good day, where the syllabus I had to write got written (late at night), the books I had to review got sorted (afternoon), and the books needing returning to the library got returned (morning).

Even thinking backwards through yesterday, I'm grateful for the work God has delegated to me. I don't have to feel like what I do should be given to others, no matter how menial the jobs may be.

Let's do the best we can with the work God gives us as his representatives. He's promised he won't give us more than we can manage on his behalf. And he's ideally equipped us with skills, gifts, education, and backgrounds to fulfill his purposes.

Read more:
*"If your boss is angry at you, don't quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes." Ecclesiastes 10:4 NLT
*Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." 

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." Isaiah 12:2-6 NIV

*We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 2 Corinthians 6:8 NEV

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Lord God made them all

People have faces. Of course we know that. But how many times do we look at the faces that surround us? Could we draw our spouse's face for memory? Our toddler's? Our father's? Our teacher's?

Artist Marina Abramović sat quietly across from people in an alternative art exploration at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The portraits of those who faced her over the two-and-a-half-month "show" reminded me that each face has a story.

Many of us are so wrapped up in ourselves that we negate the experiences of others. "It's all about us." We never consider that those around us are feeling, thinking, breathing, worrying, striving, crying, happy, euphoric, miserable... just like we are.

Yet God does not forget. Not one of us goes unnoticed or anonymous through his world. Scripture tells us he knows us and loves us dearly. Deeply. He even paid the death penalty for our rebellion against him.

Looking at the faces, it's easy to see that some have lived rough lives. There is pain and grief in their eyes, and they weep as they sit with someone who is present and waiting with them. But there is also relaxation and joy in the faces of others.

I wondered which were my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some day I may get to meet them and hear their stories of grace. I'd like to ask if they prayed and cared for Marina as they sat, face to face.

Read more:
*But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NLT

*Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 NIV

*"When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!" 2 Corinthians 7:5–7 NLT

Monday, June 7, 2010

Christ in us? What's that?

Reading Watchman Nee. Still. My thoughts for the day from his "Changed into his Likeness" book:
  • If Christ lives in us, why are we striving to be better people? Aren't we good enough for God? If that's true, are our self-standards for behavior higher than his... or are they a deception and diversion?
  • If Christ-likeness is the goal of our spiritual transformation, is Christ-likeness the normal outcome of being "in Christ?" If so, why do so many of us become abnormally mean, ungrateful, and continue to sin against God and each other?
  • How much of our own effort is required to overcome sin? Has the cross truly accomplished full salvation or does God need our help to save us? If the cross is enough, why do we feel like failures for not "measuring up?"
  • Perhaps our primary role is to remove our resistance to letting Christ control us. Maybe the hardest part of Christ in us is to submit continually, letting the law of Christ (love) work itself out, the way gravity naturally overcomes weight and resistance.
  • What would we look like as a church if Christ in us meant Christ moving our hands and feet, our minds and spirits?
Read more:
*How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 NIV

*You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 NIV

*Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all 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 3:17-18 NIV

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"But I want to be happy!"

"But I just want to be happy," sighed the young lady before me. "All I ever wanted was to be happy."

Linda's a party girl, always up for a drink or a laugh. Her family takes second place to her search for pleasure. She's beginning to reap the consequences. Money is short. Friends are unreliable. And people who love her are holding back rather than embracing her enthusiasms.

What we think determines how happy we will be. Happiness is internal. Seeking it in external relationships, activities, and material things does not satisfy. Although we go through deep waters, turmoil, and upheaval, we can feel the blessings of God and the approval of his presence when we stay close to his side.

Read more:
*Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,  nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,  and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,  that brings forth its fruit in its season,  whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3 NKJV

*The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23 NKJV

*Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The wisdom of God

"The all-wise God," how easily the words roll off our lips. Lodging the concept in our hearts to entrust ourselves to God is more difficult. I'm reading Watchman Nee's "Changed into His Likeness." Nee was imprisoned while pastoring in China. He was incarcerated for over 20 years and died in jail. 

In the prime of Nee's ministry, God put a stop to Nee's desperately needed leadership. From behind prison bars, Nee wrote from his heart and his relationship with God what he could no longer preach. 25 years after his death, I read in Seattle about Nee's insights into the call and submission of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Nee writes that God demanded Abraham surrender even the promised conduit through which the nations would know God... his one and only Isaac. 

"Would we be as willing to lay down not only God's promise for success but everything we've built in obedience to God? Even the ensuing successful ministry or call of God?" asks Nee.

I'm thinking ahead. I'd be 73 - how old will you be in 20 years? Would it feel like "the wisdom of God" to live behind bars in a dictatorship, not in a country where prisoners are well-fed, have our own TV, and can work or study on the government's dime? 

I don't always trust writers, even if they are "Christian." Many of their humanistic self-help shticks are offered under a thin guise of spiritual wisdom. But Nee speaks to me out of his experience, having given everything to God including his influence in the church and his congregation. God knew a simple pastor from China, serving under an oppressive regime, could only gain a worldwide voice and influence, by being silenced and impounded. Nee never achieved fame and glory in his lifetime, but his humble devotion continues to teach and bless others long after his death, just like the faith of Abraham. Therein lies the inexplicable wisdom of God.

Read more:
*Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3 NIV

*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

*You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4  NIV