Friday, September 28, 2012

Gaudy Night: great fun at the theatre!

W and I enjoyed the Gaudy Night show at Taproot Theatre last night! Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte knows his actors and his space and once again provided an entertaining evening.

The story starts in 1935 with a girls'-night gone wrong. In an era where society questioned the value of educating women, female dons and students tried to minimize any scandal: when one occurred, it was not easily forgiven or forgotten.

Oxford alumni of 1935 have gathered for their annual Gaudy Night celebrations but a cloud hangs over their women's college. Crude notes threaten mayhem and vandalism almost derails a celebration. Who can find the culprit?

Enter detective novelist Harriet Vane, 15-year alumna of Shrewsbury College. FYI for those of you unaware of British university systems: separate "colleges" - what we call universities - are clustered under a single university name. Thus, Oxford University today consists of 38 independent, self-governing colleges with a governing regent, usually someone famous. (Prince Philip is regent of Cambridge, for instance.)

If you like entertaining fun, this who-did-it? surprises the viewer with its twists and turns, delights with cultural insights into British academia, spinsterhood, and the early C20 class system. Don't miss the romantic banter between the female novelist and her suitor and mentor, Sayer's hero and British diplomat, Lord Peter Wimsey. The audience around me sat on the edges of their seats. Sometimes they laughed aloud at the British humor, occasionally they held their breath with suspense, sucked into the story like I was.

As usual, Taproot maximizes its small stage. The audience sits close enough to get intimately involved in the action, which my seat-mates and first-time attendees kept exclaiming about. The set changes, minimal, efficient, and at times resembling a choreographed dance, fired our imaginations as the action traveled between library, guestroom, faculty offices, and punt (a small river boat beloved by students because it requires great balance to pole along). The costuming (by Sarah Burch Gordon) was simple and authentic.

The actors' body acting riveted my attention as much as the script by Frances Limoncelli. Jeff Berryman (Lord Peter Wimsey) and Alyson Scadron Branner (Harriet Vane) were convincingly funny and serious by turn. Overall this show was outstanding, barring small blips in lines that stopped the flow a few times and occasional foul language.

My recommendation (and my guest's): ****+ or 4.5 stars. I'd say, "DON'T miss this one!" Gaudy Night is Taproot's final play of the 2012 season, running through October 20. It's long (2:20) but the story is hilarious and full of adventure. If you'd like to stay behind to discuss the play, purchase Wednesday tickets.

Coming up for 2013: Jeeves in Bloom (if you haven't meet P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster, you'll laugh yourself to bits at the interaction between the silly nobleman and butler); Lopez's The Whipping Man; Moses' Bach at Leipzig; Mills' adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in Illyria; and Wilder comedic The Matchmaker.

Tickets were provided gratis to the reviewer by Taproot.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Need inspiration? Start something!

I rarely tear up. However, births and growth (spiritual and otherwise) make my eyes well up. An unexpected sources of inspiration - and happy tears - showed up at Apartment Therapy this morning.

If you're a regular reader, you know my view of humanity: each person is unique, wonderful, and gifted. God made us as we are. He likes us! and sets us loose to use our talents, training, and experiences in our location.

WE get to choose, each day, to: 
  • develop self and enjoy life to the max, OR
  • stay small and hidden to live an unfulfilled, fulfilling life.

Need inspiration on being true to yourself while helping others? Click here for the story of an amazing Before & After by an ordinary couple. She works with refugees and he works in construction.

The abandoned house falling into ruins across the street? She sees the opportunity. He has the skills. She has the network. He has friends who can help.

Before and After - Ruin to Refuge
Together they roll up their sleeves and get to work. The result? Pure joy. Win. Win. Win. Check out the full story here.

What's your gift to the world? Here are a few ideas to help you find a place and passion that can change the world (on a small or big scale):
  1. Start with who you are. God made you. He likes you. He put you where you are. Tests like Strengthsfinder 2.0 and Myers-Briggs can help you examine your strengths and passions. Ask your friends and coworkers for their view on what's important to you, too.
  2. Look around you. What needs doing? More particularly, what needs doing that excites you or gets your mind churning with possibilities?
  3. Ask God's advice. He's strong enough, smart enough, and willing to steer you in the right direction.
  4. Find people to help. Ideas, skills, and willing hands are all around you. Don't drop an idea or go it alone if a project seems beyond your ability. Look for partners who will boost what you do into reality - or something bigger still!
  5. Take small steps toward making a difference. This might mean talking things over with others, planning a project, getting out your hammer and toolbox, preheating the oven, walking to the neighbor's home or office, or assembling cleaning supplies.
  6. Get to work. Jump in and DO IT. God made you to create and contribute to the world. (If you were unimportant or irrelevant, he would have made someone else like you and put him or her where you are.) Yikes, it's really YOU through whom God wants to show up this time, in this place. Get moving!
  7. Admire the results. Be happy when God uses you. Savor the satisfaction - even God admired his work every day of creation. (While he comments that sun, moon, starts, plants, and animals are "good," he rocked it out of the park with "VERY GOOD" when he made us. Cool!)
Please share your contribution or projects in the Comments below. We'd love to know how you - yes, you! - fit into the world around you. Thanks!

Read more:
*Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. Proverbs 24:27

*See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27

*"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

Moravian Prayer: Father in heaven, we recognize that you are the Alpha and Omega, you are the beginning and the end. We also know that you have no ending and will be with us forever. You who are, who were and are to come, be all power and glory in Christ our Almighty Savior. Amen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Choices about handling change

It's frustrating to be a non-techie in an electronics driven household. New tools that cause great excitement among W and the kids produce dread in me. Oh no. They'll move everything around, upgrade the processes I understand, and shake their heads because I don't intuitively "get it."

This morning I wanted to do something simple: put the Kindle on my IPad so I could read a book. My conversation with my genius husband, during several phone calls:
  • He:"Are you sure it's not already there?" Yes. I checked.
  • I install it and call him back.
  • Me: "It's asking for my account. What are the ID and Password you prefer me to use, please." He: "Check email. Because of hacking, this changes often." 
  • I find the email. Call him back.
  • He: "BTW: don't install it on your IPad. It's better if you put it on your Mac and access it from there..." 
  • ...from which it totally deteriorates. He has a unique access ID for the app store on the IPad. Go there and do ? ... After which I'm supposed to install ? on the Mac? But I'll be accessing the Mac-installed version on the IPad... Huh?
  • He: "From what you're telling me, it sounds like you've already got the app." Yes, I did that after the first call. But when I open the app it's asking me for access codes and I still need to know which password he wants the app under... etc.
  • He: "Forget it. Bring the IPad to lunch and I'll look at it."

We could have started and ended the conversation with the final line.

I don't understand basic terms or processes because the family "fixes" things on computers I use. Shaking their heads when they lose me at Instruction#2, the guys appropriate my gear, put stuff on it, update it ("Oh please hon, don't install updates. Some of them are spam...") and then wonder why I'm destined for the rest of life as a tech idiot. Something happens to my gurus? We'll have piles of electronics rubbish. C,mon and get it!

Sigh. That's what I get for marrying a brilliant computer nerd and having nerdy children. I envy that term in the most complimentary way. I'm not intuitive in electronics or IT: I've never developed the basic understanding of how things work.

[Mind you, the kids would be clueless with my art materials, in design and decor, and in most of the things I do without thinking. I DID train our four kids to cook and clean so the boys would be good husbands and our daughter could run a home. Lucky girl, she's a design whiz and can do most of what I do better, faster, with more zip. And her brothers help her stay current on all the gadgets. Cool.]

If you're struggling with a category of change like I do with computers, what are our choices?
  1. Get someone to implement the change and learn how to use it. (I'm forced to do this since it causes the least disruption on a busy spouse's to-do list.)
  2. Watch someone manage incremental changes and updates (or read about them) and try to do it yourself next time. Contact an expert when you're out of your depth. This is usually the easiest way to learn. However, when there's extreme discrepancy between skill sets like between my husband and me in tech, it causes a lot of frustration. "Don't you know you can't do that?" they moan, fixing whatever mess or virus I caused. If you don't choose this option, you stay stupid and behind the curve in understanding what's going on. However, you can use the updated technology/ process/ item in limited ways that may be "enough!" for you.
  3. Learn the basics and keep adapting. Start from the ground up. Figure out what's going on so you can flow with changes. This is the healthiest option if you are responsible for changes and have to manage them yourself. My husband and kids constantly exchange information and pool their resources. (My apologies to Sunday lunch guests for the occasional "boring" conversations as they update each other. Mind you, techies are delighted. The rest of us zone out until the letters and numbers stop flying around.)
Thank God for making us all different. He surrounds us with help if we are willing to ask. That assistance may not come the way we hope or expect, but there is enough gifting in those around us to get through the days and tasks as it pleases our Master. Questions to ask in seasons of change:
  • What should I be learning and doing myself?
  • What should I be asking someone to help me with?
  • What should I never touch on my own?
Lord have mercy, she says as she hangs up the phone again. He's shaking his head on the other end, hoping she doesn't touch anything.

Read more:
*My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

*Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:17-18 

*(Jesus) "Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them."John 13:17
*Be joyful always; pray continually;  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;  do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Help us to continue to follow you, O Lord. Restore our hearts and renew our minds so that each action and motive may be of service in spreading your good news. Bless the casting of our nets upon the waters of this world, bringing to shore the bounty and beauty of your will. Amen.

Monday, September 24, 2012

At just the right time... the happy toppling of strongholds

Got an unrecognizable spiritual block? In a funk and stuck? Yeah, me too.

God responds to our prayers and requests, often surprising us with unexpected grace. Sunday was one of those mornings for me.

I almost skipped church. Our granddaughter, on a sleepover overnight, had a cold and probably should stay in. However, I had promised to volunteer before the first service so my husband stayed home with Kinsey. Off I went.

I'd puzzled over a blockage in my spiritual progress during the past few years: what was keeping me from wholeheartedly pursuing God? Was I wearing out from studies? At an impasse because that sometimes "just happens?" Or could there be some root cause I hadn't thought of? When I prayed, I remained frustrated at the lack of clarity about moving forward in my spiritual journey.

Don Ross, our lead pastor at Creekside, alternates topical and expository (exploring a book of the Bible) preaching. We're currently in the middle of four weeks about Dealing with your own Worst Enemy: how to leave behind the past to freely embrace faith and practice. Last week, he talked about confessing our sin and sins as a release from guilt. Very cool and interesting. I thought about the talk for a few days.

Cain and Abel: Durer woodcut
This week, Don poured scriptures over our heads again. Using Genesis 4, the story of the first death--premeditated murder, he examined the  anger that can result from being hurt by others. He talked about bitterness which provides a stronghold for undermining spiritual health. Don spotlighted the power of anger, the choice of forgiveness, and the resulting freedom from hostility, fatigue, and depression. Hmmm. The symptoms sounded like my internal churning at times.

Was I harboring unforgiveness? Had someone hurt me, whom I was "holding to account?" Immediately, I scribbled four names on my note sheet as God brought four events to mind. My writer's hand captured them: 1, 2, 3, 4. What?! That required no effort at all.

Don offered his listeners three practical responses: 1) forgive and move on; 2) consider forgiveness but hold expectations of others (hope they'd admit to hurting us); or 3) hang on to deep hurts.

OUT! GO! GOODBYE! "I'm ready to move on," my heart shouted as my body sat quietly on the back bench.

Happiness and relief flooded me as I drove home. "I almost missed it!" I said aloud in the confines of the car. "I almost stayed home today." Oh, thank God!!! for a word spoken in a season of openness and inquiry.

This morning, the music inside my body plays happy worship. God reminded me how he has continually refreshed my life by taking away such barriers to freedom and ministry:
  • As young adults, one of the guys from youth group apologized for his hurtful words, spoken years earlier. I didn't remember at all. His words had fallen to the ground unarmed and he had suffered alone. After I gladly forgave, his joyful demeanor remained in my memory.
  • One morning, driving home from an errand, God spoke "forgive, forgive" into my heart. Nothing more, just "forgive." I began considering what that strong urging meant. Later that day I found out one family member's treachery to another. My heart had been prepared. 
  • More recently, two of us mutually admitted our lack of cooperation. Since then, we've become friends and I look forward to seeing him rather than avoiding our meetings.
Is a spiritual stronghold taping you to the spot though your feet long to run and dance? Here's what I learned about moving forward:
  1. Open your heart to God. Pray. Acknowledge your inability to do life without God's help. Ask him to make the path clear.
  2. Participate in a community of faith where God is speaking, ready to hear what God says. I got to church that day because I was "working" that morning.
  3. Trust God to approach you when the time is right. He rarely forces his children to obey but provides ongoing opportunities to follow him.
  4. Do what God asks. When your heart starts to pound (or your spirit resists) at confrontation with a biblical truth, you get to decide: yes or no? Obey or rebel? The choice is yours each time. If what's right seems too hard or your will stubbornly refuses, ask God's help. He'll strengthen you so you can thrive rather than exist.
Happily removing things that strangle us
Are you ready to release a stranglehold on your soul and walk in freedom? It may take a while to unwind the cords wrapped around you. The God of grace and lovingkindness invites us to become willing to travel with him, step by careful step. He protects us as we walk toward him in newness of life.

Read more:
*The LORD is God, shining upon us. Psalm 118:27

*(God says) "Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand." Jeremiah 18:6 (NASB)  

*It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13

Moravian Prayer: Work in us, dear Lord. Shape us into the vessel of your will as we do your works of grace. Bend us into your likeness, Lord Jesus and may the Holy Spirit complete in us all your gifts. Amen.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guest post: Good morning!

Enjoy our guest post by Rhonda Posein Schmidt, who blogs at fearless ... the anthology.

I saw this beautiful sunrise this morning and I had to snap a pic. So pretty...the sun trying to peek above the horizon, color infused sky with a smattering of clouds. I ran outside and crouched behind my dahlia's to try to capture the essence of what I was seeing and upon looking at the pic I had taken~realized there was no way of doing that.

The air was crisp and clean with a hint of a breeze. I could smell the remnants of combining and the straw that had been left in the field. I could hear our two baby hawks that are now full grown as they called to each other from the top of the Spruce trees where they used to nest but now come back just to check up on the place. Somehow all of those things were lost in the picture itself.

I guess I realized it's a new day...DUH! Seriously, I had already had my coffee so it wasn't a fog induced coma type of thought. It was a full blown smack me up-side the head kind of thought that today I get to do better.

Better at being the kind of person I would like to be friends with, better at being the kind of wife I always envisioned myself to be, better at encouraging others like I need to be encouraged, and better at being at peace with the "me" I have become.

So, happy TODAY everyone~make it a good one!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

God speaks. Can you hear him?

Need a God-phone?
Do you ever wonder if God still talks to people? Would he talk to you? If so, how can you tune in to listen? I'm sharing a few ideas about conversing with God today. Remember that a conversation involves talking AND listening:
  1. The most reliable source for God-talk is the Bible. Find direct quotes or "God said" to eavesdrop on a God-to-humanity conversation.
  2. Join a good church. Don't look for fads or trendy gatherings. The best companions are found among people on the journey of faith together. Here are a few churches I can recommend in looking for such groups around Seattle: Creekside in Shoreline; Neighborhood in Bellevue; New Life in Maple Valley or Renton; and Calvary in the UW district. (Add your recommendations in comments below.)
  3. Take time to hear God speak and to talk to God. That might include setting regular "let's talk!" appointments of meditation or prayer.
  4. Listen to the conversations of others. Seek out friends who have a relationship with God and talk to them about their stories.
  5. Watch for God at work in your workplace or community, as you meet the needs of others, and as people share life with you. He's personal and loves to interact with us. Become intentionally aware of God's presence during the day or night.
  6. Take a walk in nature or a neighborhood to observe God's beauty, his sense of order and renewal, and his care for the planet and its inhabitants.
Seems like a lot of people are inventing "designer gods" to suit themselves. They set up altars of nature or "important stuff" and worship god-in-their-image. They pursue greed or asceticism, seek nirvana (the winking out of the light of life), and cover the bases (doing good or being better than the next guy).

What an unsatisfying way to live: such human-made gods can never be bigger than we are. Life devolves into a continual DIY project and self-help. Co-creators of "god-likenesses" often infringe on others' rights and expectations, too.

The apostle Paul notes that the one true God reveals himself in nature so that everyone is without excuse: God already reaches out to each person (Romans 1:20).

No matter how wonderful or weird your life has been to date, God is waiting to chat with you, to introduce himself, and be found by you. Tune in today!

Read more:
*Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and does not keep silence. Psalm 50:2-3 

*Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success. Psalm 118:25

*“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me."  Isaiah 43:10   NIV

*And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11

Moravian Prayer: Lord God, you shine forth your word and call us to express ourselves in worship to you. Cleanse us and bless us as we offer our lives in dedication to you. We love you Lord and are grateful for your unconditional love. We lift our voices to you and sing your wondrous grace. Your word amazes us, verse after verse baptizing us into your truth. With a thankful heart, we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You in your small corner ... and I in mine

The sun's out! Again! How I love the light-filled days, the warmth (70os is hardly "hot"), and the breeze-less air hanging in the forest behind the house.

"How do people keep up, working a full-time job?" My friend and I had tea together, mulling that puzzle this morning. Both of us have left previous 8-5 office obligations to do good work from home. Now we toss laundry in during the day, pause to finish chores as we walk by, and run errands when we feel like it.

And we get to visit! Social life was hard to prioritize when we were exhausted after a long day of working for others. I've had three "meetings" this week with colleagues and friends ... with three more scheduled this week and next. I'm no social butterfly, but catching up and maintaining friendships and networks is easier when I don't have to wedge lunches into an hour of "maybe Tuesday before I go to another meeting."

I'm so grateful for seasons in life. It seemed like good fun when the kids were young and homeschooling. The days flew by and we spent many of them in creative endeavors. Now I watch the young moms and feel worn out just watching them pack a diaper bag.

I loved working for Northwest University as Alumni Director, connecting students and former students, informing alumni and administrators, looking for artists for art shows, planning events, and writing e-news. Happily, someone else has the privilege now; like I did, he loves his job, while I'm happy to have moved on.

The bluejay outside my window is dropping pine cones from the gutter onto the deck. He's flitting about, busy at his work, designed by God for gutter-clearing and cheerful talk.

Each of us has a job to do, whether I'm a disabled vet praying for friends, a grandma nurturing the young ones, a professional giving a presentation, a track-hoe operator digging a hole, or a mom soaping stains off an infant's bib. God is pleased to applaud our work as we serve with all our hearts.

How can we do good work? Here are some ideas:
  1. Do the task at hand. Serve at a big or small job as though God himself were your boss. (Um, actually he is.)
  2. Look for ways to serve with excellence. Go beyond what you MUST do to what you MAY do.
  3. Be grateful for work. Others wish they could do what you are called to do today.
  4. Look for ways to make others look good. Lend a hand, point out a short-cut, or take someone new under your wing. 
  5. Don't promote yourself beyond necessity. You don't have to brag about your accomplishments. Others will do that for you if you are an exceptional employee!
  6. Pray for those around you. Be sensitive to the needs of coworkers and willing to be a friend. Someone may need to hear about Jesus' love or see your concern for them. Many people (especially in cities) have no one nearby whom they can trust to help or listen during stressful or difficult times.
 "Have fun at work," my husband says as he goes through the check-out at the store. He loves his job. I like mine. And we hope you enjoy yours today!

Read more:
*Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God. Psalm 95:2-3

*Jesus said, “Give to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17 (NIV)
*All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3-8 NLT

Moravian Prayer: You alone are good, O God. We give you all thanksgiving and praise! You alone are great, O Christ. We bow before you in humble adoration! May the joyous sound of grateful hearts never end as the strains of truth and trust resound in you, our Savior. Amen.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Everyone does what is right in their own eyes...

Stella McCartney
Two posts caught my eye on news feeds today. The first is how the "ethical" Stella McCartney (famed designer-daughter of Paul) shows her integrity: though she supports abortion and other so-called "human rights" she will not use leather or fur in her vegan fashion lines. Her values include environmentalism.

Sarah Catt
The second post featured Sarah Catt, a mother who poisoned her child at 39-week of pregnancy. She shows no remorse (has had other abortions, extra-marital affairs, etc.) and was sentenced to eight years in jail. Authorities haven't been able to find the baby. Her values include extreme selfishness.

The biblical history lessons in Judges (7th book of the Bible, if you're not familiar with it) tell how "everyone did what was right in their own eyes" whenever a strong leader died. With high cultural  "tolerance" for sin disguised as new morality, those who shout their values seem to get respect.

I'm not talking about Christians shouting that the world is wicked and going to hell. Those voices immediately get blasted as biased, unloving, and uncivilized. (When the gospel is presented with hostility rather than grace, I don't blame listeners for their defensive opposition.)

Many voices have become credible through intimidation.  Those include world religions that are fighting to destroy everyone else (extreme Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. ) as well as Western cultural groups (gays, abortion rights, and other activists) seeking to obliterate and replace Judao-Christian morality.

Extremists, anarchists, and political movers whip up frenzies among the violent and uninformed. They use mass hysteria and crowd dynamics to tear down established mores. It's interesting that Salman Rushdie says his "Satanic Verses" could not and "would not be published today." No publisher would dare provoke the anger of Islamists. I'm not in favor of Rushdie's work; its toxins aren't worth reading. But the fear invoked by those supposedly defending their religions pervades global media.

A related idea that crossed my tea table this week was how disconnected families are, especially in upwardly mobile and privileged sectors of the emerging world. An Asian friend told me, "The parents work all day, the maids raise the children, and the kids don't even know their parents." I got to thinking: what kind of world leader could rally a global "family" consisting of such grown children, who might still long for interaction with a caring mom or dad

The news reported widespread destruction this week by Islamists, ruining property of neighbors and governments, and harming innocent bystanders with the excuse of protesting "a film made in the USA." The actions showcase the powder-keg of emotion and instability fostered by those who hate peace and other humans. Under the guise of religious fervor, people spew a satanic immorality, hatred, and death - on themselves and those around them.

"Everyone does what is right in their own eyes." There's hardly a whisper of public repulsion allowed when unthinkable lifestyles are paraded in public in our cities. However, those who stand for morality, strong families where children grow in healthy security, and safe communities are publicly shunned and ridiculed for "narrowness" and "intolerance." Right is considered wrong, while wrong is popular.

God has blessed us with scriptural instructions and a call to pray for the nations and governments of this world. We are never told to insult leaders, to ridicule those in power with political satire, or to harangue those who think differently than we do. Instead we must pray, live morally, and love God and others in word and deed.

"You can't change anyone but yourself," therapists and influencers tell us. What changes do you need to make to improve the world around you? To spread God's peace and kindness to neighbors and comfort to those living "on the edge" emotionally and spiritually? Here are a few ideas:

1. Get your heart tuned up. Be sure you are aligned with scripture and that your first recourse to joy and danger is prayer.
2. Look for those who need a loving word or helping touch.
3. Be willing to go beyond your routines and comfort zone to be God's hand extended.
4. Be prepared for angry or hostile reactions when you don't fall in with the crowd but stand for what is right.
5. Take everything back to God and the spiritual community where you are accountable for ongoing perspective, balance, and renewal.

Read more:
*By the word of the Lord were the heavens made,
    their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
    he puts the deep into storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him.

For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm. Psalm 33:6-9 NIV

*God's way is the abundant way! (repost from Dayspring Devotions)
There's no rationing in heaven, no skimping from the throne, no shortage of supply from the treasures of His mercies. His life gushes forth from the well of salvation; His spiritual refreshing flows from rivers of living water; His constant and consistent goodness is poured out through downpours of blessings.
He is the God of
abundant mercy Numbers 14:18
abundant kindness Nehemiah 9:17
abundant justice Job 37:23
abundant truth Psalms 86:15
abundant redemption Psalms 130:7
abundant loving kindness Jonah 4:2
abundant grace 1 Timothy 1:14
abundant satisfaction Psalms 36:8
abundant blessing Psalms 132:15
abundant pardon Isaiah 55:7
abundant life John 10:10
abundant joy 2 Corinthians 8:2
abundant power Ephesians 3:20
abundant outpouring Titus 3:6
abundant revelation Hebrews 6:17
abundant provision Psalms 65:11
abundant peace Psalms 37:11
- Roy Lessin, from his blog Meet Me In The Meadow

Friday, September 14, 2012

DIY: Peace in times of change

Between my friends and me, we've experienced huge changes this year. A few have had weddings, funerals, divorces, home purchases, and financial crises. I've completed a five-year study goal. Each of us is trying to find equilibrium and inner peace in these fluctuating circumstances.

check out Doug's hilarious website:

Where do we look for balance? Is it to ourselves? To others? To pop-advice gurus? (DIY books abound in recognition than we can change no one but ourselves.) Or do we seek God's wisdom and insights?

After summer, I promised myself that I'd clear my office of dissertation flutter. I still need reference books for two presentations. But all those papers? I made origami of some, filed others, and binned the rest. Check out the before and in-process after the big dissertation desk was removed and its drawers emptied... everywhere.

 I know. I know. But look at it now!

Sitting desk, current files, and dog bed
The room is not perfect: I'm NOT a perfectionist and I've studied, exercised and written in the space for a few days. I can see my artwork. Everything has its place. Whew. (Mom, you were also correct about "clean your room!")

The study was symbolic for me. I had to wrap up a part of life that I was leaving behind for a new season. The rest of the house is waiting for renewal and I'll tackle it this fall between other obligations.
Standing desk (with high chair option), files

How do we find rest and peace in times of change? How do we get from before to after? Through a mess? Into the future - with our sanity intact? Here are some suggestions:
  1. Evaluate what is important. Note what you are keeping and what you have learned from the past.
  2. Think about the day. What is facing you today? Do you have friends and family who will support the day? If not, find a church family and begin the journey in community. "Everything costs something," according to my mom. It takes time and effort to find support systems.
  3. Tackle what you can change now. Don't procrastinate because you're waiting for someone else or life to change.
  4. Invest in tomorrow. Need devotional time to hear from God? To plan out some goals for the year ahead? Desperate for organizational help? Looking for storage for summer clothes and the bbq as fall approaches? Do you need marriage counseling? Or to spend time with your kids to talk to them about their walk of faith? 
  5. Be content in the moment. God has made you "YOU" and placed you in this day. He will help you walk through the challenges and opportunities of the moment and the future, whether circumstances come through our choices or the decisions of others.
 Read more:
*Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Psalm 85:9,10 

*The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7 NIV

*Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish. 2 Peter 3:14

Moravian Prayer: You are our salvation, righteousness and peace, O Christ. While we await your coming, fulfill in us your holiness so others may see and know that you are God. The time is now for faith and a holy fear that binds us resolutely to you. O spotless Lamb, take away the sin in us as you have taken away the sin of the world. Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"I never thought I'd die"

How hopeful are you?

Coast guard rescue of Ryan Harris: BBC report
Teen Ryan Harris and his friend Mac capsized into stormy Alaskan seas this week. His friend was able to pull on a survival suit and swim to shore. Ryan wasn't as lucky but he was inventive in the face of certain death. The BBC reported:

Mr Harris took refuge in a bin used to store fish, and the two men were soon separated by the waves.

Mr Harris said he repeated to himself for hours the mantra, "I'm Ryan Hunter Harris and I'm not going to die here", and sang Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Row, Row, Row Your Boat, he told the Daily Sitka Sentinel.

"I never thought I was going to die, but I was worried about Mac," Mr Harris told the newspaper.

Ryan, climbing out of the Coast Guard rescue basket
inside the helicopter
Teens seem to think they're immortal. It's cool that Ryan repeated his name as a living reference, telling himself he would survive this awful accident. And he did. He was rescued after 26 hours. That's a loooooong day!

"I cheer you on, Ryan! May God give you the pleasures of a close relationship with himself to give you joy all your days." Ryan's care for Max also proves his concern for others. Bet he's the type to cultivate friends for life.

How do you face insurmountable obstacles? What happens when you're sideswiped and thrown into deep waters?
  • Do you grab for the survival suit or the fish bin?
  • Do you think only of yourself or do you look around to help others?
  • Or ... do you give up hope and drift away into the freezing depths?
How have you faced the waves of death? Has it made you more optimistic or less trusting of the wide wide world and its opportunities and dangers?

Read more:
*The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. 

And so I walk in the LORD's presence as I live here on earth! I believed in you, so I said, 'I am deeply troubled, LORD.' Psalm 116:6–10

*The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant. Psalm 103:17-18

*Continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. Colossians 1:23

Moravian Prayer: What a treasure it is to love one another, Lord, just as you have loved us. May that love be shared from generation to generation among your people. Cast aside our fear and doubt, proclaiming through us the good news of hope to all whom you put in our path. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Defending the faith

Riots in Egypt against American Embassy
Today's BBC headlines scream that Muslims are rampaging against the American embassies in Cairo and Libya. Why? Someone apparently in the USA produced a film the Islamists consider insulting to Muhammad. Which begs two questions:
  1. Why do Muslims feel the need to violently defend their prophet and the Koran from possible slights and destruction?
  2. Why don't Christians feel the need to defend their Savior and the Bible with similar uprisings? News feeds report that adherents of various world religions trash the Bible, kill Christian believers, and destroy churches almost every week.
The answers to both may be the same. The prophet cannot defend himself or his Koran. His followers acknowledge that he is dead. Only the activities - and frequent militancy - of his followers guard his ideas and keep his legacy alive.

In contrast, Christians believe Jesus is a living Savior who intercedes for them and actively leads and guides them - not only in history, but today. Scripture speaks in the present tense as God's unfolding relationship with humankind. Christians understand that God's Word (the Bible) lives and breathes beyond printed or recited words. Therefore, while burning the Bible's pages may prevent access to scripture, it cannot harm God or his self-revelation to humanity.

Mission of Mercy, Calcutta
Christians are obligated to care for and defend the weak, poor, and defenseless. BUT nowhere do Jesus or his disciples ask Christ-followers to protect Jesus' reputation from insults through violent or destructive uprisings against governments or attacks on "infidels." (Though Israel conquered and defended itself against surrounding nations in the Old Testament, Jesus never participated in the Jewish uprisings against the Roman government of his day.)

Jesus acknowledged that families would feud and people would kill each other in his name. But he never sanctioned such behavior. Today Christians rarely burn flags or attack embassies, though we read about many  appeals for justice and mercy on behalf of orphans, widows, and persecuted fellow believers. Sometimes they defend themselves and their villages with weapons, too.

The Turkish Saladin fighting Crusaders
Many violent things have been done in the name of Christ, including offensives against those who attacked the Christian faith and communities. The Crusades, arguably also political fight for survival, recruited its participants as a response to Muslim slaughter in the Middle East and Europe - and totally got out of hand. It gave Christianity its still-stinking reputation among Muslims and Jews (though historically, Christians don't remember as vehemently the entire areas that were devastated by contemporaneous and gruesome Muslim conquests...)

SO ... do you think current Muslim protectionism of their religion is warranted? In view of the extremest Islam bent to violence, do Christians have a responsibility to "do no harm"?

On the other hand, is defense of scripture and Christianity needed today? If so, how should that be done?

Read more:
*He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Psalm 121:4 

*Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. Psalm 139:4 

*Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. Psalm 147:1-5 NIV

*The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12

*The good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden. 1 Timothy 5:25 (NKJV)

Moravian Prayer:  By the light of day we serve you who never slumbers, O God. Shaking off the darkness of sin and doubt, we clothe ourselves with your Holy Spirit. May we never grow weary in our ministry, fighting the powers and principalities that would lull us into the sleepiness of indifference. Equip your saints, Lord Jesus, for the battles ahead.

Lord, in you alone we are an unstoppable force. Even when we think you are far away, you are so close. Even when we have hidden from you or run away, you are always there. We will not deny you any longer, but spread the word of your glory and goodness. Let our works magnify you among the peoples. Amen.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What's your native tongue?

We typically think of communication as the language of speech. We use idioms like "on the tip of my tongue," "words of affirmation," "verbal abuse," or "well-spoken." Yet some of us are happy never to speak in public.

In contrast, over the years, I've heard many acquaintances bemoan their disappointment: they expected to find a platform to speak to a wide audience. They wanted to share what they knew. They wanted to be noticed.

A few of those "would-be speakers" are young; others are middle-aged. Some are senior citizens for whom a time of wider recognition has never arrived. While the youngsters are still striving and hopeful, older people feel lost and forgotten. Unimportant. Unheard.

After you finish reading today, I'd appreciate some feedback from you (in comments please). I'm giving you a heads-up :-)

Yesterday, I read Psalm 45 and stopped in my tracks. I thought about verse one all day. The poet wrote about how he communicated: "My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer."

Hmmm. For how many of us is our "native tongue" not a public speaking platform but -- an act of service? A letter written to a friend? A kind word spoken to a coworker? A painting or music well-played?

My "native tongue" is not what I thought it would be. My current "tongue" is not even the same that it was previously (pianist, teacher, group leadership trainer...) My intuitive, natural communications have morphed into words on a page. I find writing easy. Fluent. Second nature.

Everyone is heard by others, whether we recognize that or not. Even those not well known at work or in the neighborhood speak a personal language. Some clearly communicate, "I want my privacy. Don't bother me." They shut others out.  

Others are gregarious and chatty with conversation.

Many people engage the world by doing, whether or not they are talkers -- assisting a friend's move, repairing a car for someone who can't afford repairs, helping balance a checkbook, baking a cake, visiting a shut-in, running an errand for others, or ? We'd love to know:
  • What are some ways that you converse with the world? (How do you tell others whether or not they are significant to you? Whether or not you care about them? Whether or not you think God cares about them?)
  • Has your "native language" remained the same or changed over the years? Was that expected or a surprise?  
  • How do you best "hear" others? Through their words? Attitudes? Deeds?
Please leave your feedback in the comments below.

Read more:
*For me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works. Psalm 73:28

“I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have trusted in me,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 39:18

*Christ says, “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:2

*Those who serve well gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 3:13

Moravian Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have saved us from sin and unbelief. Set us free from doubt through simple faith and the joy of eternal life. What an awesome truth that by your death we may forever live. Hallelujah!  

Let us be strong and courageous as we witness to your truth and grace, O God. No matter where we find ourselves, may we always abide in you. Jesus, as you went boldly to the cross, send us with confidence into the everyday places of life. Grow our faith as we serve and share. Amen.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Developing mature conversation

"Whatcha doin'?" he asked me. "Up to anything?" It was a passing conversation. We didn't know each other well.

"Doing fine. How about you?" I answered.

In contrast, a friend and I talked this morning about personal things and what's going on in our families and friendship circles. We ran out of time before "talking ministry" but we'll get there, maybe next visit. Our hour of interaction flew by. We have some catching up to do, though we read each others' blogs and stay in touch via FB or email.

How do you go from fluffy, inconsequential chit-chat to mature conversation that can "say anything" to a trusted friend?
  1. Fill your life with wisdom, reading scripture and hearing God's instruction. Hang out with wise mentors and reliable characters.
  2. Start light and exercise discernment. Don't spill your guts to every passerby or "cast pearls before swine." Other people won't take you seriously or trust you if your words are indiscreet.
  3. Listen to others' conversations. How do people you respect speak? What do they say? What would they never say? Imitate the wise and respected.
  4. Build on friendships and collegiality: which ones have proved trustworthy and have begun to share their lives with you?
  5. Pray about who can be trusted and watch how people handle their friends' confidences and secrets. 
  6. Tell something safe but private. Ask the person to keep it between you. If it comes back "around the gossip bench," ask your confidant if they shared with others. If so, don't share again, especially if there is no remorse or if the exposure was a deliberate "slip of the tongue." They can't be trusted.
  7. Keep other people's secrets to yourself. Gossip is saying something about a person that you wouldn't say if they were standing next to you. Sure, go ahead, brag on others' "job well done." Boost them in conversation with others. But unless it's immoral or illegal (or dangerous to the situation), guard others' weaknesses and failures.
Jesus told his closest friends many secrets about God and himself. But he kept himself apart from those who weren't trustworthy. He was friendly but not exposed to everyone. Maturity comes from following his example.

Read more:
*In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you. Isaiah 26:8

*When we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32

*Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten.

No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of Godhis plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 NLT
Moravian Prayer: When you see fit to judge us, God, help us to remember your love and grace. Call to our minds the redemptive purposes of your discipline and the promise of eternal life. Thank you for training us so we shall forever be your children. Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How to become powerful

"While we were powerless, Christ died for us," Paul wrote.

But wait! I thought Jesus laid aside his godly privileges to become a servant. How can a servant be powerful and change the world?

Here are a few ideas from Jesus' life of power and influence:
  1. Know who you are and who sent you. God is pleased that you and I were born and that we are willing to act on his behalf. HE is powerful and sends us.
  2. Ask God for your assignment. Jesus prayed by himself and got direction from his Father.
  3. Be willing to do anything, great or small, to serve others. What makes me (or you) intrinsically better than anyone else so that we expect to escape mundane chores and dirty work? It's all the King's business!
  4. Be courteous and pay attention to people. Notice the young and old, the hurting and the strong. Who needs God's attention today -- through you?
  5. Align yourself daily to God's character and you'll know whether something is a fit or not. Anything that causes you to envy, steal someone's good name or stuff, or bring bad repute on God's name probably isn't "God's will" for your life.
  6. Expect to be different. You'll stand out because of God's power through you. However, your own reputation may suffer, as Jesus' did!
People of influence and ongoing authority in my own life have consistently served, rather than looking to be served.

The power of Christ, in laying down our lives for others, excites attention in a self-serving world. Who knows where God will take you, if you are willing to do the humblest background service? The skills and reputation you have built may take you to the forefront, but even if they don't, God has you front and center on his stage of Kingdom events. A powerful place indeed!

Read more:
*Noah did all that God commanded him. Genesis 6:22  

*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

*You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds. Ephesians 4:22-23 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Give us the courage to obey you, Lord, even when others don’t understand. Wash away the filth of this world in us, refreshing us with newness of life and purpose. As we put away our old selves, renew our minds by your presence and power, living joyfully in your grace. Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How to see with new eyes

Before: an office heaped by neglect
and drawers emptied to move a desk

What do you need to see with fresh eyes? What project or goal have you been putting off?

Most of us have old eyes. We look without seeing our habits, clutter, and destructive patterns because we recognize familiar patterns as norms. How can we see things with new eyes or fresh vision?

I walked through our front door Sunday night after spending two months in Montana. Before my sabbatical, I blocked out things around the house to focus on my dissertation and travels. One of the most exciting things about my return home (besides seeing the kids and our grandchild!) was getting a fresh look at the house.
Before: the other side of the table...

Yesterday I had an eye migraine which I suspect was caused by "good stress" and the elevation change. However, W got an early start today (6am) and I woke full of vigor. First, the dogs and I walked a few miles around the neighborhood. Then I unpacked food, clothes, and toiletries. Finally it was time for some real renewal of the house, which I'd been ignoring and putting off...

During: furniture begins its move into
place and the sorting begins.
I washed and de-spider-ed the conservatory before tackling my utterly chaotic, post-dissertation office. (Happily, Jonathan appropriated my "dissertation" desk while I was away.) I leveled a drafting table as my standing desk and re-purposed a glass table for my sitting desk. Some clutter waits to be sorted, but the bulk of my chore got done today. Hurrah! Hurrah!

So how can we look at things with fresh eyes so that we can renew ourselves or our spaces? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Leave your familiar environment and come back. Let things settle down while you think from a distance about new possibilities. I graphed a few ideas for my office while in MT before choosing a plan of action.

During: leveling the standing desk
2.  When you return, consider your priorities and who you are--before you restart routines. Priorities may require personal changes, spiritual renewal, or decluttering a physical space.

3. Make a list of what needs doing before the sheer mass of change bogs you down. I began to jot down must-dos and chores in a notebook, on the evening of our return. It took a couple of days before I had energy to begin. Those "little" actions I've notated may take months to complete, but I'll check them off as I go. The list helps steer next steps in the right direction.

4. Start small but don't quit until your energy runs out. Drift through the list, doing what is at hand and what pleases you. If you find yourself running out of steam, do something else. Then get back to the main task. (Between the two daunting jobs of the conservatory and office, I diverted to small chores on the check-list to keet energy high: I ran the dishwasher, washed and folded laundry, cut my hair, checked FB, and blogged.)

After: the sitting desk is ready. Time to blog?
5. Remember that things usually get worse before they get better. Don't get discouraged if everything feels like chaos. You don't have to finish what you started in one day!

6. Celebrate what you've accomplished. Take a photo of "before" and "during" so you can enjoy the "after." When I've finished my office, I'll post the final photos.

God is merciful. He made the world in six days rather than all at once. Afterwards, he rested and enjoyed his creativity. Let's give ourselves permission to do the same.

Read more:
*Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 NIV 

*I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may keep my ordinances and obey them. Ezekiel 11:19,20 

*Jesus said,] "'I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father's hand. The Father and I are one.'"
John 10:28–30

*Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

Moravian Prayer: Come replace our hearts with whole hearts devoted to you, Lord Jesus. Take away our love of sinning and burn away the impurities of our minds. Help us bring every thought, word and deed into captivity through our mutual love and ministry. Amen.