Monday, November 28, 2011

In with the Old...

In with the Old Testament, that is. I listen to the Bible on radio a few times a day. 

I find the Old Testament really depressing. It's not that God is unfaithful or uncaring. It's that we are such stupid people, generation after generation. (I'm not using the term "stupid" lightly, either.) 

From the time the first people began to reason, we think we know better than God. Adam and Eve choose "the knowledge of good and evil" over knowing God and the wonderful surprises he had planned in his relationship with them. By the time Noah is told to build the ark, humanity is so corrupt that God chooses to start over with Noah and his family. Researches note that Noah would have had to take about 3,800 species into the ark to keep diversity as we see it today; everyone and everything could have fit into his boat as long as Noah saved the lower tier for manure. Ugh stinky. But after all that work, one of his grown sons is disrespectful and consigned to serve everyone else. The writer of Genesis doesn't say if Noah had a temper, but his curse on his son sure sounds like it.

Then Moses, the murderer, impulsive caretaker, and meekest person on the planet. Gideon, who keeps making excuses why he shouldn't lead and builds an idol from the spoils of God's victory. Rehaboham, Solomon's heir, who splits the kingdom by being a tyrant. Israel, who goes "whoring after other gods" time and time again... 

It's just depressing. Some people find the OT uplifting because of God's faithfulness. I think that's the only good part of the story. People who are faithful to God get thumped by their peers. They're told they are out of step and idiots to serve God. Evildoers hunt them down and kill them when possible. Much of the Old Testament contains God's warnings of the horrible punishments his righteous judgment will inflict. Does anyone pay attention? Very few do. Very few indeed.

It gives me a heavy stomach to read the stories. I find myself stopping and losing track between all the prostitution, killing, and idolatry. Which is why I have scripture read to me on UCB Bible. I can focus on the words, the scope, the ongoing movement of God among us through history.

I don't understand most of what the Bible says about God. He is like the wind whose movement is seen and felt but cannot itself be captured. The more I know, the less wisdom and understanding I seem to have. The older I get and the deeper into a life of faith, the more trust it takes to pray, "Not my will but yours for this day." I want to shout, every time I see horrible things on the news, experience another surgery alongside my daughter who lives in pain, or hear of marriages breaking up, financial ruin, and people taking advantage of others-- "PEOPLE PAY ATTENTION! DON'T BE SUCH MORONS!!! GOD WHERE ARE YOU?!!"

But would anyone mind a warning? I'd probably be sent away to an asylum for disturbing the peace, if not for appealing to God for help.

Yet I also sin. Continually. I break the law and cut into line, looking out for myself rather than my neighbor. I look without pity on the poor and needy and walk by those who need my help, the Pharisee hastening on the other side of the road so I don't become "defiled" or waste precious time (Luke 10:25-36). 

Grrrr. After all these years of reflection and saying to God, "I'm yours. Help me to obey. Help me to love you with all my heart," I'm still a sinner, continually washed by God's grace and a once-for-all blood sacrifice.

I am comforted by reading the stories of Abraham (liar, coward, God's chosen) and David (adulterer, murderer, deceiver - pretend-madman, God's chosen). Both kept coming back to say, "Sorry! I'm actually and truly yours, in spite of what I just did. Please help! No other gods before you."

The God who had mercy on them looks on me with pity and compassion, too. "Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy!"

I'm praying with the Orthodox church today, after listening to a half hour of genealogies from 1 Chronicles. Oh please - how about some cheerful psalms? Like #150. 

Read more:
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV 

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The weight of words

Scholars love words. Some researches prefer words to people.

But I'm finding there is a heavy weight in words. When I started my dissertation and wrote the first paper on it, I couldn't find information on early Pentecostal missionary women. Meanwhile, a friend wrote a fantastic dissertation on the rhetoric of early Pentecostal women (Joy Qualls, Regent University) and there are more papers coming down the pipeline all the time.

I'm drowning in all the information I'm supposed to know as "background" for my own findings. As I'm rewriting an article (to be defended in place of tutorial exams), I've begun rereading the print-outs, books, and pages I've assembled in my file cabinet. I feel strangled by the weight of words pressing on me. And I still have two big phases of defense and writing left, though I'm hoping to finish with them this year.

If I don't get through this year, I'm taking the summer off to breathe before tackling the beast again in the fall. My worry is that so many of us are writing at the same time: if I don't get my work approved, who knows if someone else's work will make mine moot. Argh. Even in the last five years, the topic seems to be covered better and better. Another year? I might have to toss my work out altogether.

Barbara Cavaness, who kicked off Assemblies of God research on their female missionaries with her groundbreaking dissertation on single female missionaries, gave me access to her file cabinet. She has neatly sorted articles and copies and papers on all kinds of studies done about missionaries, especially single women. And she hasn't had the time or heart to pass them on since she wrote almost a decade ago.

I'm afraid that may happen to me as well. Many scholars get so attached to all the things we've collected that it wraps itself around us. I suspect that I'm going to be happy to let everything go, though. This process has become a burden, boring me with its minucia, fiddles with editing, and the sheer volume of sameness. Though I want to focus, I'm like the little boy in the picture, lifting what doesn't feel real. After a while, it seems like I'm going backwards rather than forwards. It's like shopping in 101 malls, all of which have the same stores with slightly different displays.

Oh Lord, help! Let me not be wasting my time and yours as I bench press through the weight of scholars before me!

What's weighing you down or causing you to put life on hold?

Read more:
*Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.' This is the message you must give to the people of Israel." Exodus 19:3–6 NLT

*I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:145-147 NIV

*"And don't address anyone here on earth as 'Father,' for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don't let anyone call you 'Teacher,' for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." Matthew 23:9–12 NLT

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for ...well, everything!

I'm blessed beyond measure. When our families get together, we don't worry about drag 'em and knock 'em out fights, watching our words so no one gets offended, or second-guessing others' motives. W and I really like our kids (including those who married into the family), our aunts and uncles, and still get along with our parents. Oh yeah, we love each other, too.

Today was very special. While the kids and W went elsewhere to eat turkey, I stayed home to keep writing an article I have to defend as part of my doctoral process. At 5, I ate a can of sardines and heated up some frozen pasta. Yeah, it would have been great to have some turkey and other Thanksgiving fixings, but W and Jono brought home delicious pumpkin pie made by their hostess (thanks, Martha!) Accompanied by peppermint tea, it was a perfect finish to an indifferent repast.

If I counted my blessings and named them one by one, the list would go on into tomorrow. Instead, how about counting five or six blessings of your own, things for which you are grateful. Chalk up a few things that you deserve––as little as I deserve the wonderful blessings in my life.

I'd start my list with: a relationship with Jesus, friends, good family, health, shelter, food, love, education, the ability to read and write, paper and pen, an updated computer and working printer, vision, smell, taste, breath, hearing, touch, spiritual confidence in God's provisions, dogs who adore me. . .

and you... ?

Read more (thankful for you, Tillie!):
*Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
         Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the LORD, He is God;
         It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
         We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
         And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
         For the LORD is good;
         His mercy is everlasting,
         And His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 100   NKJV

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our house this year

On the right...

There's a time and place for everything, reminds my good friend Martha. Even Samuel's mother Hannah took a break from festivities until he was weaned.
I'm taking a break until this doctorate is DONE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One deadline down, more to go

A whole life culminates from a series of days and moments.

Sometimes it seems like what we do for the next hour or two doesn't make much of a difference. I like to dawdle through books that make my heart sing, like CS Lewis' Space Trilogy - nope, never actually been able to read them cover to cover, no matter how many times I try. I keep getting lost in the descriptions of worlds of imagination, conjured by words I know in other contexts.

But that's not the point I'm thinking about today. I looked at blog stats and was stunned to find that I have written so many... and that so many people read what I write. (Stats recorded over 15,000 readers in the past year or two). Day by day, with one post at a time about whatever comes to mind, the words stack up. And I am so grateful for every comment and encouragement along the way – other readers love to read what you're thinking, so keep them coming... in public if you're willing. A very special thank you to Tillie Porter, who sends a scripture a day my way, encouraging me to stay grounded and rooted in what is true and right.

I reached one of my smaller deadlines toward a potential 2012 graduation last night, sending off the fourth of four tutorials to my advisers. I have four really big deadlines (writing and defense of writing) coming up. As I hit "send" yesterday, God reminded me that every day has its own joys and sorrows. Nothing has the power to overwhelm us when he is in the day with us.

Our task is to listen to the still small voice –whether it comes through scripture, prayer, friends, church community, or otherwise – and obey. Nothing God asks of us will be contrary to his Word, even when it completely contradicts our culture and others' expectations.

What is God asking of you today? Doing a good job to earn your salary? Cleaning house to make it sparkle for hospitality later this week? Sitting at the bedside of an ill friend or family member? Praying for missionaries who desperately need spiritual cover? Studying for a sermon that nourishes rather than amuses or entertains? Brine-ing the turkey and assembling ingredients for Thursday's feast? Resting with your feet up because God is giving you time today to think about him and be grateful for all he has done?

I'm going to tackle the article I have to write and defend. It's not the way I'd choose to spend the day if I were making up a "perfect" day. But it's the task assigned to me. 

See you. Let's get to work!!! (or rest!!!)

Read more:
*In this manner, therefore, pray:
      Our Father in heaven,
      Hallowed be Your name.
      Your kingdom come.
      Your will be done
      On earth as it is in heaven.
      Give us this day our daily bread.
      And forgive us our debts,
      As we forgive our debtors.
      And do not lead us into temptation,
      But deliver us from the evil one.
      For Yours is the kingdom and the power
      and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9-13   NKJV

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feeding the soul

I'm in the middle of an interior remodel. Every morning when I wake, my body is tapping out a worship tune or hymn, or I come up from dreams thinking about some aspect of God's work among us.

Seems like all that listening to scripture and reading the lives of devout missionary ladies is paying off in personal spiritual meditation, even while I'm asleep.

Something I know about the way I work has been confirmed again. When I'm focusing on a very difficult task, I need distractions that pull off energy so I can refocus. Usually I write, as long as it's not connected to my academic work. Walking helps, too. And the dogs appreciate getting outside!

I sent off the first of four tutorials in the middle of the night... and haven't read the print-out to see if it's any good. I heard from the dissertation committee that I can defend a reworked (yes, still to be rewritten) article on January 25... from home. I don't have to fly to Missouri for this one, thank God. The committee and my adviser will tell me more in coming days and week.

Meanwhile, I have about a thousand footnotes and about 200 pages to put into professional formats. Plus what I write has to be coherent. When you have 101 sources, it's hard to synthesize information into a flowing style that also makes sense. 

So... (what else)... I started writing down what I eat. I cook quickly, without much thought beyond assembling what is at hand. If you like food and need inspiration for what to cook, check out the Impulsive Foodie blog out once in a while. Hopefully it will nourish you with good photos and ideas for great food.

I admit it. I'm a totally impulsive cook and consumer. Check out: the The Impulsive Foodie @

I thank God for brain food, body food, and especially for his Word, which feeds my soul. Ghoosing physical or spiritual food requires obedience to his laws of health and well-being.

What are you feasting on today?

Read more:
*Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
            His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.             His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:             His love endures forever.
to him who alone does great wonders,             His love endures forever.  Psalm 136:1-4  NIV

*'These are the LORD's instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.'

So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.

Then Moses told them, 'Do not keep any of it until morning.' But some of them didn't listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them. Exodus 16:16–20 NLT

Sunday, November 13, 2011

We could get out the rake... or...

The neighbors are sharing their maple leaves. Big drifts of them fell down the sky, sailing on the wind Friday and Saturday. Today the courtyard and gravel driveway are covered in gold. I also had to fish some out of the pond.

I noticed a fellow raking his yard. Though his bounty had blown as far as a block away, I didn't see him leaving his own boundaries to gather the wealth into his recycling bags.

W and I walked the dogs early in the morning, and I picked up 5 leaves, a few sprigs of fir that had fallen onto the road, and some  pampas grass trimmings sticking out of a garden recycling bin. No one paid much attention to the sorry looking yellow and red mums on our deck, so I snagged a few of those, too.

I rarely have a preconceived idea of the container or arrangement as I collect things on walks. It seems best just to open a cupboard, pull out a vase from the shelf, and let the flowers find their place. People usually rake up all the leaves and toss them. I'm happy we got to rescue a few to enjoy their beauty on this lovely Sabbath.

We spent the morning enjoying worship and a talk by Jason Deuman, one of the leaders at Creekside Church (Mt. Lk. Terrace.) We saw a few friends in the foyer, among them missionaries Audrey and Rick McAninch, who serve children in crisis through Into Africa Missions.

We left refreshed, thanking God for the beauty of Word and world.

Read more:
*The one thing I ask of the LORD—
  the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
  delighting in the LORD's perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
  For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
  He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
  above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
  singing and praising the LORD with music."
Psalm 27:4–6 NLT

*Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stuck in statistics

"Everyone can't be good at everything," Mom tells me. I know that's true about me!

I'm ploughing through (no, I don't mean plowing) statistics for 6 years; 1900, 1905, 1910, 1915, 1920, 1925. Yawn. Just writing the years bores me. I'm trying to chart engagement in missions within a few denominations. SO much information, so many places to find it, so little agreement between the data. For one group, I found three different "official" statistics for the same year, same value. Ugh.

Of course, it doesn't help that I get lost when counting. I can count the same info five times with five different answers (and have done so...) My mind zones out; it feels like I'm entering a fog, even when I try to keep track with the computer cursor and pencil marks on paper. In the thicket of slippery numbers, I'm envying the calculator brain of my wonderful d-in-love Rebekah (who is gifted at many things besides math, too.) 

"Not my talent," I tell myself. "Just something I have to crunch through." (ouch! eek! zzzzzzh!) I love information and am excellent at estimates. I can glance at groups of things, sort them easily, and come up with an approximate number or grouping that will be really close to a 100% accurate one -- which would take me ages to muddle toward. I'm also dreadful at making sense of clever license plates and crossword puzzles. Riddles leave me unmoved, though finding out the key to an algebra equation used to give me a thrill like stepping off a roller coaster.

Sadly, my great guess-timates didn't help me much in calculus classes. And the high school business machine teacher used to shake his head that a good typist kept mixing 3 and 9 on the adding machine. "Perfect accuracy, Rosemarie! You have to perfectly accurate or that one stroke puts you six million off!" he'd shout while scanning my papers. Oh, Mr. Williams, it was to little avail, except, "I'm trying! I'm trying!"

At a job interview, I warned a prospective boss that money was not my gift. Well, he'd asked, "What are you NOT good at?" Didn't take a new breath to answer that one!

Money. (Yup, he had an MBA.) "I'll be under budget and hand you back thousands if I can," I promised. "But keeping track? Yuck." Every year in that office, I never needed the full amount allotted to my department, though I asked to keep that amount earmarked, just in case. 

Well, of course I didn't need it all to reach my annual goals ... I am gifted at re-purposing, creating, and finding "just the right thing" to get a job done (though "the right thing" might have been manufactured for another purpose.)

This morning, on my second full day of gathering and reporting numbers on a chart, I'm comforting myself with a word break. That I can do. Thanks be to God for creating writers and artists to complement scientists and accountants in his wide, wide world. 

All he asks us to do is today's work. There is comfort and peace in making sure our tasks are God's assignments, whether we take them upon ourselves or a boss or professor requires them of us. What's on your list today?

Read more:
*When Moses' father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, 'What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?

Moses replied, 'Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God.'

'This is not good!' Moses' father-in-law exclaimed. 'You're going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.' Exodus 18:14–15, 17–18 NLT

*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

*Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: 'What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?' 

They replied, 'He is the son of David.'

Jesus responded, 'Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah "my Lord"? For David said, "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet." Since David called the Messiah "my Lord," how can the Messiah be his son?'

No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:41–46 NLT

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smile and clean up that mess!

I'm a perpetual fan of Apartment Therapy, a design, decor, and home arts blog. This morning's post was hilarious.  Maxwell is in the middle of a 20 Day Home Cure. Enjoy this link, which may bring a smile to your face as it did to mine: Clean One Room!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Get outa bed, already!

Some days it's hard to get out of bed. The covers are warm, the room is soothing, and the mattress is "just right."I love our room: the chocolate walls envelope us, but the dark color provides a background without defining boundaries. Vintage fuscia-pink drapes, about to be tossed, were rescued to frame the sliding door to the deck.

We bought a $100 limited edition print for someone's wedding. I framed it, and got it ready to give away. All three couples who were going to chip in to pay for the thing were newlyweds, so money was tight. "Oh, we don't like that, and we don't think they will either," said one of the couples. Oops!

We've hung the print in our offices over the years, enjoying it in different spaces. Now it's come home to live with us again as a perfect compliment to our style and colors. Classics are like that. The old brown dressers, purchased twenty years ago at a "grandma's-dead-and-what-do-we-do-with-her-stuff" sale, have outlasted classic and contemporary redecorating. Kirsten uses the night table, so a piece of the set has traveled the states with her.

It was time to get out of bed when the sun peeked through the trees. I still love to wake up to the cocoon, looking out to the woods behind the house, anticipating the day.

I waited for ten years to put up those drapes. I knew without the right color to match their impact, they'd look garish. W felt unsure about the brown, and hated the idea of a mass of hot pink. "I can't believe I'm going to sleep in a pink room!"

After all these years, he mostly trusts my judgement in spaces: he rolled on the luscious brown, "Every wall?! You sure?" and reattached the drapery rod near the ceiling. Those drapes puddle on the floor, which is both fashionable and annoying. I can't bring myself to cut them shorter.

Since the pictures were taken, we moved the bookcases to the LR so I can color on the big empty wall with pastels (in lieu of art, and easy to erase). The chaises sit in the conservatory. And the low dresser rests at the foot of the bed, the perfect platform for a jewelry "tree" and watching movies on the computer.  I'm thinking of hanging hammock chairs in the open space, somewhere to curl up in and read or drink tea, watching the forest light up the day. Hmmm, redecorating - that's worth getting out of bed for.

Read more:

*Gen. 22:3  Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.

Num. 9:21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.

Psa. 5:3     In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
        in the morning I lay my requests before you
        and wait in expectation.

Psa. 90:14     Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
        that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psa. 143:8     Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
        for I have put my trust in you.
    Show me the way I should go,
        for to you I lift up my soul.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Center of my own universe

Everyone thinks they're the center of the universe, or wants to be the center. Hence, the "upside-down" world map (to those in the Northern Hemisphere). Yesterday, I saw two headlines for the same story: "Iceberg the size of Berlin forms in Antarctica," and "Major iceberg the size of New York forming in Antarctica."

Seems like each of us naturally looks out for our own interests. For instance, I find myself weaving in and out of traffic when I'm tense or trying to get somewhere quickly. But wait. What makes me more important than anyone else on the road? Sure, if someone is dawdling, pass them. But zig-zag-ing for position at the head of the line, saving a few minutes at best?

"What am I thinking?!" Foot off the gas, relax.

I was fascinated by a song on the radio about a woman getting irritated with "small inconveniences." She mentions misplacing her keys in the same stanza as speeding through at 35mph zone at 45mph and getting caught by the police. 

"Wait," I thought to myself. "Isn't one of those different. Actually breaking the law?" Since when has it become okay to consider laws as general guidelines... if they are convenient for me? I admit the song reproved me with its casual dismissal of obedience as option and punishment as inconvenience. Why? I sometimes am that woman (only I haven't been caught).

We need to be reminded to consider others better than ourselves by parents when we're young, by peers and friends later on, and perhaps by our children and employees as we age. Jesus noted that those who are faithful in little things can be trusted with much.

In my inner heart of hearts, inconsistent and ever wandering, I constantly need to realign my being with God's centering presence. I cry, 

"Oh Lord, create in me a pure heart. Renew a right spirit within me... do not cast me out of your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me again... and uphold me with thy free spirit. The I will teach your ways to those who step over the line, and sinners will turn from their ways to come to you." (Psalm 51: 10-13, paraphrased)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A tough pick

We've made a tough decision. A really hard choice.

For 25 years, we've hosted a Christmas dinner for faculty and NU friends. The first time I cooked a turkey for the group, I was in my late twenties, mom of three kids (now four, the youngest is 22), and brimming with energy. We loved having wise, funny, godly, and yes, oh so smart! friends share an evening, sing carols and read the Bible story of Jesus' birth, and bring special dishes that evolved into annual traditions.

It was fun to move all the furniture out of the living and dining rooms to set two or three round tables. After Thanksgiving every year, we bought an enormous tree that almost touched the 17' ceiling, decking it with sparkle and lights from base to tip.

Decorating? My hands fell on whatever was nearby or whatever caught my eye. One year, goldfish swam in glass bowls on candle pillars, surrounded by red roses. Another year, I twined white garlands around coat hangers to make "feather" trees. Once, I took the hangers out of ornaments, filled them with flowers, and stapled together a paper flap to hold the globes upright. W and I would do all the dishes after guests left and fall into bed exhausted but happy. The next morning, all we'd have to do is read the guestbook and smile at the wonderful memory of the night before.

A few friends transitioned to heaven over the years, but some of the favorite recipes made it into the file and have been made every year by other willing hands. A typical menu was based around:

homemade rolls and preserves
potato casserole
green bean casserole
orange veg
yellow veg
jellied salad
tossed green salad
green pea salad (Ernestine Rice's legacy)
meat and bread stuffing
turkey and gravy
and more get the picture - a lavish table groaned under a meal lovingly prepared by many hands.

The tough decision? In light of my "impossible" dissertation schedule, Kirsten's visit for surgery and post-op care, and W's writing and teaching, we're not hosting the Christmas event at our house this year.

Will we miss it? Yes. Do we regret the cancellation? If we have time to think about it, we may. There are seasons in life where clenching the past holds us from the future. Times when we have to say, "NO! Sadly, no," to things we have enjoyed.

What are you saying good-bye to as the holidays approach?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Loving like... WHAT?

I read two scripture passages today that tilted my world. I admit that I've struggled all my life to love people as warmly as I'd like to. Seems when the cuddle-bug made its rounds, it forgot to bite me. It's not that I dislike people. There are just lots of times when this introvert feels like I can "take" or "leave" them. (Hardly imitating the biblical model of Jesus!)

"'Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?' 

Jesus replied, '"You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind."' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: "Love your neighbor as yourself." The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'" (Matthew 22:36–40)

"Wait a minute," I think to myself. "It is as important to love people as it is to love God?" Yikes.

Meeting with his disciples shortly before his death, Jesus gave strict orders: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV

How on earth can one love others as deeply and sincerely as Jesus loves us? The secret must lie in our utter abandonment to God's love. Knowing how precious we are in his eyes, that each person is made in God's image (Genesis 9:6), gives each human value beyond comprehension. 

It's easy to spend time on something that we think is valuable. People take hours to gaze at museum exhibits, nurture hobbies, and admire jewels, fine art, and collector's items.

How much more should we esteem those with infinite value, who have been purchased with the blood of a Lamb without spot or blemish?