Friday, February 29, 2008

It's Not What We'd Feared

Although I still believe our Enemy (the one who only seeks to kill, destroy and steal) was ultimately responsible for the death that occurred on Tuesday, there has been an important revelation made. The police have ruled his death accidental. Apparently, he was cleaning a weapon when it discharged. I'm so thankful to know that our Enemy didn't deceive him to bring about this tragedy.

Of course, his family and friends, people I love and care about, have nevertheless had him stolen from them, so we will continue to lift them before our loving and compassionate Lord, asking him to comfort them with his amazing peace.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reminisces of Yesterday

“The heart is more deceitful than all else" (Jeremiah 17:9)
I was reminded yesterday how true that is.

Put on all of God's armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against strategies and tricks of the Devil (e.g. Satan, the deceiver - Revelation 12:9) . For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but ... against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against the spiritual forces of evil. Stand firm then, putting on the breastplate of God's righteousness, [and] put on salvation as your helmet (Ephesians 6:11-17).
I was reminded yesterday why our hearts and minds must be protected.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8)
I was reminded yesterday that "human tradition" is to act on what I feel, and that the "basic principle of this world" is to do what I think is best for myself and others, whether or not it's true or what they would want.

I was reminded of these things yesterday as I learned of two tremendous struggles of grief for people I love and care about deeply. In both situations, Satan deceived and deluded the logic of one person into believing things that were not true and magnifying the things that were. As a result, their hearts were deceived, and they acted in ways that have brought about devastating sorrow and hurt to people they love.

Why else would a man leave his wife of nearly 22 years to be with a woman born the year they were married? As a result, his two teenage daughters (one a graduating senior), as well as his wife and multiple friends (including Darin and me), are left wondering who he truly is. And he seems to be wondering the same. His heart and mind are wandering about unprotected, and he has given in to believing that what he feels is most important.

Why else would a man chose to end his life prematurely? What seemed like rational, reasonable logic to him was taken and twisted by a deceiving Enemy who only seeks to kill, destroy and steal. And now his family and friends, people I love and care about, have had him stolen from them.

O God, act now in accordance with your word in the lives of these I love who are hurting so deeply right now. Heal their broken hearts and bind up their wounds, curing their pains and their sorrows (Psalm 147:3).

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Mystery of Christ

I've know I've mentioned recently my love for murder mysteries and on January 14, I quoted a devotional by Christian writer and musician, Michael Card regarding the "mystery of Christ" talked about in Scripture. I've been intrigued by this idea of "mystery" in the Bible since his devotional, and I've done a little of my own research about it.

The word "mystery" is used only 25 times in Scripture: six times in the Old Testament (book of Daniel only, involving the dreams of pagan kings) and 19 times in the New Testament (with only four of those uses in the book of Revelation - a mystery to everybody!). There are two things that strike me about these facts. First, God was actually a greater mystery to people under the old covenant than the new, although he is never described that way. Those followers never saw God incarnate (made human). The closest they got was a cloud by day, a pillar by night and an Ark in the holy of holies (oh, and Moses getting mooned! Ex. 33:23). Second, Paul and John, men who actually saw Jesus in person, were the only New Testament contributors to call Christ and his gospel a "mystery."

I find it amusing that Paul wrote three letters within one to two year's time (perhaps even from the same jail cell) with three very different perceptions on the mystery of Christ:
In Ephesians (likely written first), he writes, "Surely you have heard about...the mystery made known to me by revelation.... In reading this [letter], then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ....This mystery is that through the gospel, [we] share in the promise of Christ Jesus" (3:2-6).
In Colossians (possibly written second), he writes, "My purpose is that they may...have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ" (2:2).

Yet, in Philippians (probably the last of these prison letters), he writes, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings" (3:10).
It seems as though Paul becomes less certain of what he knows about the mystery of Christ, and more certain that he has more to learn, more to absorb, more to experience. A process most of us call maturity.

Now, I'm not suggesting that Paul was making up something or speaking arrogantly of what he didn't know in his earlier letters. I believe with assurance that God had revealed a great deal to him about His nature, character and will. But I also believe that as God revealed himself, Paul realized (as most of us do) the true "otherness" and incomprehensibility of Holy God. A year or so later, in 1 Timothy, Paul even wrote that "without question" the mystery of Christ is "great" (3:16).

Therefore, rather than trying to "figure out" this mystery, wouldn't we be better served to allow God to reveal himself to us in his way, and in his time? Yes, God gave us a mind to use for comprehension and deduction; thinking about Who God is is an incredible use of those properties and energies. But, unless those efforts are rooted in faith, love and reverence, God is merely a study for science or philosophy, something to be proven or analyzed.

What God is after is a relationship with each of us, through which he reveals himself. Still better, he has given us the Holy Spirit to "[make] known to us the mystery of his will, [that is] to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under Christ" (Ephesians 1:9-10).

In other words, it's Ok for God to be a mystery. Couples married for 50+ years still sometimes find surprises in one another. Healthy relationships aren't dependent on knowing all about the other, they're dependent on wanting to know about them as you live life together.

What's God going to show you about himself today that will make him less of a mystery than he was yesterday? Let's give him the freedom in our relationship with Him to be Who He truly is.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Giggles with Jesus

Fourth grade boys sure can giggle. I realize that may not be a shock to anyone who has raised/is raising a fourth grade boy, but I offer it as a warning to those who may not yet have one of these persons in their home or frame of experience. Having been out of children's ministry for several years and having only taught fifth grade and up, I'd forgotten this fact. But, I was reminded of this truth this morning in Bible study as I laughed with two who'd been bitten by the silly bug. And, when they get that tickled, reigning in the troops can take a little longer than you'd planned. Somehow, though, we actually managed to get through the lesson, and had a wonderful time, too.

I'm doing some basic discipleship with these guys over a period of 4 weeks. Last week, we discussed what it means to be a Christian (Christ-follower), and this week we examined the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. We even observed the Lord's Supper in complete reverence using Chips Ahoy and milk. We broke the cookies to remind us of Christ's body being broken, and sipped the milk explaining how the normal use of wine or grape juice is a great reminder of Jesus' blood being shed. It was more practical to use cookies and milk because as we discussed Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3, we saw that Jesus was actually dunked under the water. So, we "dunked" our cookies in our milk to get the idea of immersion. They are greatly looking forward to our next observance of the Lord's Supper as a church family, now, too. What has delighted me most is that they are really "getting it." I'm so pleased with the thoughts they are putting into the things we do and write about faith in Christ. Best of all, they're finding that following Christ can be a lot of fun. 

So, giggle away boys. I'd rather walk the journey of faith with a couple of kids who can't stop laughing, than a whole church of people who are too "pious" to be glad about the love and grace of God. I fully believe Jesus got bit by the silly bug and giggled from time to time, too. In fact, I think he was giggling with us, today.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts to Ponder

In addition to quotes by Einstein, each day on my Google homepage, I'm also amused with "Thoughts to Ponder" akin to the Saturday Night Live Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey. Who, by the way, I recently learned is a real person. He's not just a made-up character of the SNL writers. Even better, he's a native of San Antonio and El Paso! He's published nearly half-a-dozen books and numerous articles, but I don't recommend them for family-style entertainment.

Anyway, here are some of the recent thoughts you might like to ponder with me:
Why do croutons come in air-tight packages? They're stale bread.

Why are there phone bills in a country with freedom of speech?

Why is it when you get from here to there, you're still here and not there?

Why isn't "phonic" spelled the way it sounds?

Why do scientists call it research when they are looking for something new?

Why do banks charge you a "non-sufficient funds" fee on money they already know you don't have?
[For my husband:] Who took the bite out of the Apple logo?

[And my personal favorite:] If the cops arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

Comments welcome; especially if you've got one to share!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Recently Read

I read this anonymous quote this week, and I'm still being challenged by its truth. Perhaps it will challenge you, as well:
"Half-heartedness consists of serving God in such a way as not to offend the devil."
Colossians 3:23 says that whatever I do, I am to work at it with all my heart, as working for the Lord, not for people. Yet, who am I aiming to please? Or, more likely, who am I afraid to offend (whether it be others or the devil)? Do I think I'm getting away with something when my ministry and service are done with a resentful or bitter attitude or without finishing the job well? God's kingdom and our transparency with him are what suffer the most in such circumstances, in spite of the fact that it is his kingdom we are to seek after first (Matthew 6:33) and that his greatest commandment deals with the condition and focus of our hearts (Mark 12:30). One day in eternity, I want Jesus to say he had my whole heart as I served him here.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. - Jesus' words in Revelation 3:15-16

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I don't think I've made it any secret that my forte isn't athletic ability. I'm an incredible spectator, though, as is evidenced by the way I yelled and cheered last night as the Frankston ladies lost in regional quarterfinal play. (And by the way, long hair does not a girl make. I'm not calling out anyone in particular on the Lions' team, but are we sure all of them are female? If so, there is some definite imbalance in testosterone and estrogen. Scary. And frankly, I have no respect for a coach who puts on a full-court press with less than a minute to go and a 20+ point lead.) But, I digress.

Nonetheless, in spite of my own major shortcomings as an athlete, this afternoon was so pleasant (68 degrees and overcast), I had to do something to be outside. So, I dusted off the basketball and tried to make a few hoops. My percentage was nothing to brag about (so I won't mention it at all), but I did make a few shots.

Believe it or not, I actually made the team in 7th grade. Coach Overstreet, bless her heart, tried so hard to make something of me or at least do something with me, but my passion for academics and music left little room in my tiny brain for coordination on the court. In fact, I made a whole 2 points. I may have made some free throws in there somewhere, but I just don't remember. It seems unlikely, since I rode the bench most of my career. Still, for that one season, I have some fond memories. The most notable being the time I was standing under the basket waiting to rebound. When the ball went through the net, my brain moved away from the backboard, but my body didn't. The amusing dull thud as the ball landed on top of my head was only heightened by its roll into the corner of the gym. Even now, that whole moment plays out in slow-motion in my mind, especially the hysterical laughter of the crowd as I chased the stupid thing under the bleachers. (Not a shining moment, needless to say.)

I certainly have no business on the court or even on the bench, now, but I'm glad we've got a goal and a ball here at the house, just because of the simple fun it provides.

Eric Liddell (the Christian runner on whom the movie Chariots of Fire is based), said:
"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."
I don't have the foggiest idea what that's like as a runner or a basketball player, but I've certainly known that in other areas of my life, whether "successful" in my efforts or not. I hope you've known that same sense of His pleasure in your life and abilities as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ice Cream and Haircuts (but not at the same time)

My Grandma hated ice cream. Actually, that’s not true, she loved ice cream. She just hated making ice cream. She told me that when she was a little girl in the early part of the 20th century, one of her jobs in the summer was to sit on the porch and churn ice cream for hours at a time. She had eight brothers and sisters, so I secretly doubt she was left to that job alone, but to her, each undertaking seemed to last an eternity. She vowed, even then, that when she was old enough and could afford to buy “store bought” ice cream, she was going to do it. I never remember a time going to her house that there wasn’t a carton of Blue Bunny or Blue Bell in the freezer. When times were tougher financially, she’d buy the knock-off brands, but she didn’t care – she hadn’t had to make it! Furthermore, she didn’t understand the fascination of some with making their own ice cream. After all, as far as she was concerned, wasn't it God himself who created Ben and Jerry? He put them on earth for a reason, and she wasn't going to be the one to deprive them of fulfilling their calling! I distinctly remember one summer afternoon, my aunt trying to convince Grandma to come outside and join the fun as the electric ice cream maker was running. The look Grandma gave her melted the rock salt, so my uncle ended up at the store buying Dreyers anyway.

In the first six years of our marriage, I frequently thought about Grandma as I cut Darin’s hair. Let’s be honest, I’m not a beautician. There’s a reason they issue licenses for that job. I can count on one hand the number of “store bought” haircuts he had during that time, but we cut his hair at home to save money. I can’t tell you how often I wept over the results of my handiwork. But, he, in gracious love, always looked at me and said, “It looks fine.” Translate that, “I’m as cheap as you are, so I’ll live with it like this for a couple weeks until it grows back.” Thankfully, he could win an Olympic Gold Medal for the rate at which his hair grows. Finally, we are now able to afford “store bought” haircuts, and I no longer worry that the beautician police will invade our home on Saturday mornings and ticket me for operating without a license!

"Store bought" ice cream and "store bought" haircuts. God does give good things, doesn't he?!

I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done... Isaiah 63:7

Monday, February 11, 2008

People I'm Pondering

Since September, as many of you know, I've been tutoring 5th grade students in reading Tuesday and Thursday mornings. But, in preparation for the upcoming TAKS test next month, I began last week tutoring every morning to help give a final push toward better reading comprehension (thus, the infrequency of my blogging over the last few days).

Although I certainly hope their scores will reflect it, I feel quite certain that many of them have made solid strides this year. We read an "Encyclopedia Brown" book this semester that piqued the interest of five of the students so much that they asked where they could get another book in the mystery series. Remember, these are kids that generally find reading to be so challenging that they look for opportunities to avoid reading anything! (With full gratitude to Donald J. Sobol, author of the series!)

Honestly, the reason I selected the book was because my love for mysteries began as a child, reading the Encyclopedia Brown books. I'm currently in the throes of an Agatha Christie novel, Crooked House, and I'm quite happy trying to figure out who-dun-it.

Probably many people, at least as merely my acquaintances, wouldn't guess I love to read about murder! I think that's one of the things I love about developing new friendships: learning unique, or even unexpected things about people.

For example, I recently discovered a fellow sister in Christ has a tremendous (and outstanding) collection of over 200 porcelain dolls. When I saw the beautiful, delicate figures, I was awed. Last week, I met a Canadian brother in Christ. The lowest temperature he's ever personally experienced is -60 degrees F. (If that doesn't boggle your mind, your brain must be already frozen from northern exposure.)

Are all these things trivial? Perhaps. But my enjoyment of murder mysteries, her collection and his chilling experience still comprise who we are and who we are becoming, unique to us alone. And it doesn't have to be "life-altering" stuff. Just the details of people's abilities, talents, interests and experiences fascinates and delights me. I guess that's because all that they are and can do in this amazing world points to an amazing and creative God.

Won't it be funny if when we get to heaven, we discover that God has a hobby, too. (More than just keeping us out of trouble!) And can you imagine the stories He'll share about His experiences throughout eternity?!
Great are the works [and people!] of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. -Psalm 111:2

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Holy Discomfort

Now that Darin's sermon series about change is drawing to a close, I've been asking the Lord, "So, what does that look like or feel like for me?" I've really appreciated the reminder that I'm not the central worker in the change God wants for me. He is. He's responsible (and reliable). I just have to be willing and pliable.

The truth is, change is uncomfortable. I'll never forget the time several years ago when we rearranged the furniture in the living room. That evening, Darin, walking in the darkened room, ran into a sharp edge and sliced open his knee, needing stitches. He had been moving as though things were still the same. Unfortunately, that change brought severe pain for him.

Did it mean we were "wrong" by rearranging the room? Of course not. Did it mean we would need to walk in a new way than we had previously? Just ask Darin.

Working within the changes God is bringing (or wants to bring) means doing things differently, walking in a new way than we have before. And when we constantly question his change, because it's different or awkward, we're only hurting ourselves. He's certainly not threatened by our doubts, and doesn't mind our questions, but we are so conditioned to believing that a "good" or "healthy" spiritual life is a "comfortable" one. There isn't a shred of evidence in scripture to validate that theory. In fact, Jesus assures us, we will have troubles (John 16:33). Could it be that we need to flip our understanding entirely? Could it be that "uncomfortable" is the most healthy condition in which to be in our spiritual walk?

The tutoring classroom at school is almost always uncomfortably (OK, miserably) cold. Regularly, I find myself focused on and giving attention to how cold I am. And wouldn't you know it? I do something about it. I bring a jacket, step out into the hall, even curl up a little tighter, hugging myself. That discomfort causes action. Maybe the discomfort and uncertainties God allows in our lives, those things that jump up and down on our last nerve, are intended to get our attention, so we'll do something about them.

Maybe there's someone whose ideas strike against what you've always known and believed to be right and true. God may be trying to change you and make you teachable. Perhaps there's an overwhelming circumstance that you can't fix. God may be trying to tame your independence. Maybe there's a relationship that desperately needs mending. God may be trying to break your pride. Each of these situations are uncomfortable. But when it's God at work within us, it's a holy discomfort.
Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Monday, February 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jen!

Today is my sister's birthday, so I simply wanted to wish her the best day possible. (Consider yourself hugged and kissed, Jen.) She's a busy wife and mother of two great preschoolers with a Master's degree and an incredible ability to play Trivial Pursuit and Boggle. I love you! Even if you do beat me every time we play those games.

That's Jennifer on the left and me on the right, circa 1980. (28 years ago! Whew!)

Surprise Party

No, it wasn't a birthday shindig, but rather a party that literally surprised us, the hosts! Last night, Kris planned a Super Bowl party for the students to be held at the 105. However, the television's reception wasn't so great, so @ 3:30, we offered to host the event at our house. I hadn't cleaned or prepared anything, so it was quite an impromptu affair, but that's sometimes the best kind of all. We truly had a wonderful time. The students treated us and the house with respect, but most of them relaxed enough to simply be themselves: cheering, laughing, and consuming gross amounts of pizza!

I've been asking the Lord lately how I can best be obedient to his word in Romans 12:13:
"When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night."
I didn't expect him to drop an opportunity in my lap! (Although no one stayed over. It was a school night after all!)

I wonder how many other chances I've missed because I was too focused on meeting my agenda rather than hearing his still, small voice of invitation to service and ministry. Honestly, I don't think I want to know, but I hope I'll be listening more intently for the next time. I'm just glad I didn't miss this one.