Thursday, August 20, 2015

All 'Er Nothing

During High School, I participated in show choir -- LOVED every moment of it.  For our Senior Year High School Musical (before Disney sabotaged the phrase), we performed Oklahoma!, and I played one of the lead roles -- Ado Annie.  One of my solos was "All 'Er Nothing".  I haven't thought much about that song until recently.  You see, it was a type cast of sorts because that is exactly who I am.  I am an "All 'Er Nothing" type of gal, and if I can't give it 100,000%, I won't try it at all.  Do you know how exhausting this is??  Terribly so, I assure you. 

When I took up knitting, I was IN IT.  I was going to knit everything that could possibly clothe the human body, as well as pets, and coffee mugs.  I truly do have a pattern for knit panties.  No.  I have not yet made them.  Crochet?  Umm, same.  Not only do I have to be able to make everything, I also need to, apparently, clothe everyone else and their grandmother as well.  Sewing??  Yep.  I can't just sew those darling blankets I adore making, or those cute shorts and pillowcase dresses, by golly I better be able to sew everything we will ever need for my entire household, family, extended family, and God Bless America--the entire U.S.  I am exhausted.

Recently, I decided to take up spinning.  You know, turning wool into lovely yarn.  However, I got really exhausted even contemplating it.  Afterall, I can't just buy the already dyed/carded/cleaned wool, I need to do all that myself, so now the hunt is on for some sheep and the tools needed to shear that sheep.  Do you see where I'm going with all this?  I have been asking myself a lot why God is "taking" away so many of the things I have loved doing in the past.  And I'm learning this.  He is telling me to relax a little.  I do NOT, indeed, have to save the world one stitch at a time (even though I know myself well enough to know I will try anyway).  After finishing reading through Interrupted once again by Jen Hatmaker, I realized something seriously profound that I had heard repeatedly but never accepted for myself.  We can all do something -- one small thing -- to help those around us.  I can literally feed my neighbor, share a mug of coffee while a friend cries out her heart, make a hat -- a single hat -- for someone who needs one.  Share the love of Jesus in a natural way that pours out of just being in community and being available always for whatever tiny task it is -- even if it's just opening the door for someone with their hands full. 

I have made all of life very complicated.  Ask my husband.  I love big.  If I'm not constantly doing something, I feel like a failure and slip into depression.  If I can't save the world single-handedly, one stitch at a time, I have failed the entire universe.  It's just too much, and I'm so thankful that Jesus doesn't even expect this of me.  Thank you, Lord, and Hallelujah.  I'm a leap before you look sorta girl, and those who know me best know this about me and have helped pick me back up after I fall.  We are a people obsessed with "calling".  I think, after living possibly half my life, I have finally figured out my calling.  Oddly, it doesn't really include knitting underwear for anyone (my children are rejoicing), including myself.  My calling is to follow Christ hard.  This is one area in which I CAN be "All 'Er Nothing".  He IS ALL, or I really am nothing.  I am called to follow hard after Christ, love my neighbors, and be present to act the moment he prompts me to.  If ever he should call me to knit underwear, I will.  I already have the pattern (and it's possible since Dorcas, aka Tabitha, sewed garments that were used as undergarments for robes -- just sayin' check the Greek on that one--good stuff).  But all the little things that I think aren't important??  Feeding people, being available for people, simply noticing another human being -- those are huge. 

So, what say you?  Are you ready to follow hard after Jesus, "All 'Er Nothing"?  I just may be on to something here . . . I can quit laying out the fleece so he will show me "just one more time, Lord" what it is he has called me to -- what he called YOU to as well.  Food for thought . . .

I leave you with this gem . . . You are welcome.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVz5K63iYDs


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hearts Made Whole: A Review

I just finished reading the 2nd book in the Beacons of Hope series by Jody Hedlund.  I had not previously read the 1st in this series, but I wasn't at all lost.  This particular title, Hearts Made Whole, was a fantastic read.  It addresses the issue of the capability of women to do a job as well as a man (in certain areas--a lighthouse in this case), PTSD in combat soldiers before the disorder ever had a name.  Substance abuse, scandal, and a murder scheme all rolled into one, this was one fast-paced book that will keep readers on their toes. 

What I most enjoyed about this particular title was how very complicated it became, and how there was never an easy way out.  Each situation demanded hard work and commitment.  Abuse was also highlighted in this novel and reveals its devastating effects on all.  Besides a few cheesy romance moments (pure scandal during this time period), this is a very entertaining read with much value. 

Taken: A Review

Hang on, friends!  Taken, by Dee Henderson, is her newest action-packed, intelligently written
offering to the world of fiction crime novels.  This book does not disappoint!  It digs deep into the psychology of victims of abduction/assault, and the difficulties they face after freedom trying to acclimate to a society that has been, for the most part, absent from their lives.  The man or woman freed must learn to operate within this society while at the same time dealing with the hurt, fear, psychological torments endured at the hands of their captors.

You will meet two lovely main characters in this book that made me long for more, as well as a whole host of supporting characters with deep storylines all their own.  Private investigator, Matthew Dane, experienced the restoration of a lost child and is intentionally sought out by the one who found her freedom, Shannon Bliss.  Theirs is a story of healing, transformation, deep friendship, trust, and abiding companionship.

I anxiously await the next chapter . . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Experimental Mutiny, Take 2 . . .

I love Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  It address excesses in our daily lives while the majority of the surrounding world is pining away (um, literally) for basic necessities.  I had another thought, though.  What if?  What if we conducted a little Experimental Mutiny in our local congregations?  I mean at the very base level.  What if we stripped away EVERYTHING that is excess, and we only presented the necessities?  What if we had a music "fast" of sorts?

I think we are so spoiled and entitled, and if things don't go our way, we pitch a fit, withhold our funds, shake our fists, etc., and all the while the world around us is still homeless, suffering, dying, and longing for a Savior.  Hold on with me a bit . . . one common theme I have heard in the past decade is that music style is completely dividing churches and the scenarios (toddler tantrums) I mentioned above are part and parcel to the experience.

So, what if we all got a little dose of reality and rediscovered what worship really is, and what it isn't? What if we stripped it down to the bare bones for just a teensy bit so we could recenter our thinking on Christ?  What if??

I'm a musician, so I love music.  Period.  This would be difficult for me, and music is so vital to the faith community, it's absence may just be so shocking that we learn to appreciate what we do have a little more.  So, what if we walked into our American church tomorrow to this . . .

Enter sanctuary/auditorium/gathering place.  House lights/natural lights.  Absolute silence.  Someone begins reading passages of Scripture from the podium.  This is immediately followed by a time of corporate, guided prayer centered around unity as the body of Christ and a call to action to love our neighbors and serve our community.  The Pastor delivers a sermon, followed by a time of communion.  Closing Scripture/Benediction/Prayer.  Exit in silence.  No media.  No nothing.  God's Word.  Prayer.  Breaking of Bread.

Would we all survive it??  Could we possibly learn something from this Experimental Mutiny??  Can we be reminded that music does NOT equal worship?  I have no idea how this would work, what it would look like, or what to do after.  I do know that as long as God's people are centering their everything around the foot of the Cross, the Gospel, all else pales . . . I do know that all we need is Jesus.  He is enough.  Maybe I'm on to something here . . . . maybe we should have a little Experimental Mutiny against our very selves . . . our own desires and needs.  Strip it down so it's just us and Jesus.  The end.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Inclusivity in the Church (and how we have ended up anything but . . . )

I initially set out to write a post directly coinciding with my current frustration surrounding a child battling a moderate concussion.  I also initially set out to lightly chastise.  However, I have had some time to process my writing, get some feedback from those I trust, and re-work my thoughts a bit.  I would like to approach this "issue" from a different angle:  inclusivity, or lack thereof. 


You see, I believe we in the modern American church have a huge problem.  We have focused so much of our time and attention on reaching those who have walked away, those who are marginalized, those who would rather be anywhere else that we have done something entirely unanticipated.  We have become exclusive.  I'm speaking about our elders and those in our communities who are sensory challenged/impaired. 


Quite honestly, we operate as a production.  I realized this even more so this past week after meeting with the Pediatric Concussion Specialist for my daughter.  She was getting very ill during worship services, and we were told NOT to return if it was like a concert with lights and loud noise.  As I began to ask around about other "quiet" places of worship, I was hard pressed to find many options.  I knew we could visit our previous church since they have a traditional service, but, honestly??  I want to worship where I'm at! 


And this begs an important question.  Where are our senior citizens and those with sensory issues?  How is the average 75-year-old supposed to feel included in a worship setting that is in many ways bizarre and completely foreign?  Could I invite my 90-year-old grandmother to worship with us?  Sadly, no.  We, the collective whole of American pop-Christianity, have become a production.  We have fog, special effects lighting, a stage, theatre curtains, black out windows, voice feedback/distortion--you name it.  And I just have to ask, why?  Why do we "need" any of that?


When you look around and wonder, "Where have all the old folks gone?"  you must really ask yourself, indeed, where??  Why can't they worship alongside us?  Why have we become so inclusive that we have actually become EXCLUSIVE to an entire generation of faithful believers and followers of Jesus Christ!  We have decided that being rooted in a historic faith is less important than being a part of the here-today, gone-tomorrow philosophy of modern worship.


Look, I did NOT grow up in a hymns-only church.  I grew up in the Wesleyan church, and when you talk about a blended service, they had it down!  We sang hymns AND choruses, the student band kids played along once in awhile (thanks for telling us how awesome we were even though it was probably very painful for you to sit through), we had gospel quartets, students leading--you name it.  So, please don't read this little treatise of mine and think, "Great!  Another whacky hymns-only chick trying to tell me how to do worship!"  Nope.  I'm just a follower of Jesus greatly disturbed by the mass exodus of the elderly because we no longer have room to honor them. 


But isn't this characteristic of our culture in general?  We don't honor our elders.  Why in the world would the Church reflect the culture?  Aren't we called to be counter-culture??  Is it really horrible if we use regular house lights, natural lighting, keep those window shades up, play softer (and you don't ever need 5 electric guitars---ever!!), add hymns in their original forms, and just tone it down a bit?  None of the ideas I mentioned require a special budget, extra manpower, complicated production, etc.  It's simple!


Maybe that's why I'm so annoyed about my daughter's predicament.  I'm thankful for it, actually.  We worshipped in the Catholic and Lutheran traditions for so long, both of which always had a Contemporary (though nothing like our version of contemporary) and Traditional offering.  There was never a "unity" issue because there was a great balance, we communed together, we had classes together, we served alongside one another.  Our liturgy was united.  We were surrounded by grannies, mamas, teens and toddlers--even noisy babies!  I never felt I was missing out on the "production" because we didn't have the volume set so loudly our seats vibrated, theatrical lighting, or the hippest/latest/Hillsong number.  We just had worship, and God was at the center--not the "stage".  My daughter's issue has made me thankful because I'm opening my eyes and seeing this again--reminded of why I took a giant hiatus from contemporary evangelicalism. 


Today, it seems the church has merely become a production in a world over-saturated with productions.  We have become a stepping stone for someone on the stage who may be trying to make a name for him/herself.  We have become a place in which every new thing is a grand experiment at the expense of others (and if those others have a problem with it, they are just lacking in spiritual maturity and can find the door, right??).  We are loud, foggy, psychedelic at times (strobe lighting, anyone). 


Where have all the elderly gone?  Where they feel peace.  Where they feel included and a part of the body.  Where they feel comfort, familiarity, hope, worth.  We have asked too much.  We have asked them to traverse our strange land with foreign tongue because, for crying out loud, this is a new day!  New music!  New ideas!  Inclusivity for all (oh, except for them)!!  Out with the old!  In with the new!!


I have to tell you, I grow weary of this song and dance.  I have literally cried tears this past week trying to figure out what to do with my own child and feeling tremendously overwhelmed for those who have had no choice but to move on from all that was familiar and sacred to them. 


I guess my agnostic friend said it best after visiting a church and reading the title "Production Pastor" in the leaflet.  "See!  I told you!  It's all a production!"  Sigh . . . . I had no words then, and I have no words now.  This is one of the big reasons Millennials are leaving--not because they no longer love Jesus.  Oh, they love him, alright.  They are just tired of the production.  This is why the elderly are leaving.  This is why our families with sensory-challenged children are leaving the typical American Evangelical Church.  We have become so inclusive to modernity, we have become exclusive towards the "least of these". 


Church, please hear me.  I'm not saying only this or that.  I'm saying this AND that!!  We are told to sing hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs!  We are to be a beautiful picture of the Bride of Christ in all her Splendor!  Young, Old, Disabled, Sinner, Saint, Seeker, Contemplative, Artist, Charismatic!! 


I am a straight thinker.  If there's a problem, you fix it.  End of story.  Get rid of the production, honor all generations, end the madness.  Please.  You are losing us, not because we no longer love Jesus or His Word, but BECAUSE we love Jesus and His Word.  We don't want a production, and I want my old friends back (my literally old friends).  I want to gather in a pew (or auditorium seat--I won't even get started on that diatribe--I'll save it for later so you can process this first, wink, wink) with my granny, my mother, and my daughters.  I want to be truly inclusive of ALL generations--not just the ones we've deemed important. 


Dear Church, please.  Enough is enough. Stop singing that chorus so many times just because we are trying to get to the emotional high point.  Stop singing songs that are super fun to jam out to in the car but make no theological sense and merely entertain.  And quit changing our hymns . . . we like them just the way they are (and for those of you who think I'm being short-sighted and are missing that the church once only sang Gregorian Chants and hymns were scandalous, I welcome Gregorian--love it, in fact).


And, please.  Listen to your elders.  Honor them.  Respect them.  Even if you don't like their music, because, really?  It's OUR music. 

Together With You: A Review

Together with You by Victoria Bylin is one of the sweetest Christian romance novels I have read.  This book addresses the incredible reality of living with a child with some form of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a very difficult diagnosis you don't hear much about.  It is a book that threads together the beautiful tapestry of sin and redemption, and deals honestly with both. 

The character development is strong, and stereotypes dispelled systematically throughout.  With most romance novels, the plot can be seemingly simplistic without much reality.  Although there was a bit of that in this novel as well, there were true representations of realistic struggles as well. 

I learned a lot about the mindset of a child with Fetal Alcohol Disorder, as well as the struggle to attach with and parent a child with this challenge.  I also observed what happens when well-meaning, but ignorant, relatives try to swoop in and "save the day" only to the detriment of the child and the child's family unit. 

This is a tough read with many redeeming characteristics.  I recommend any book that not only entertains, but educates as well.  This is such a book.  It is a reminder of the frailty AND resilience of the human spirit. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

There is Beauty in Obscurity . . .

Isn't it funny how so many do nothing but run hard after fame?  I am one of them!  I found validation and much-needed attention because of my musical abilities, and the high was so good I wanted more and more and more.  And it was never enough.  It didn't matter how many concertos I memorized and received perfect scores on, how many music "milestones" I accomplished or surpassed, how many opportunities I had--it was never enough, and I still felt empty--obscure.  I remember recently telling my husband, "I'm just tired.  I don't want to try anymore.  I don't want to prove myself to one more critical musician."  And that was that.  I made some choices early on in life that caused a bit of a derailment, so I never got to fulfill that "ultimate" dream--just a 2nd best.  It no longer brought joy, and I'm not sure it ever really did, just dread. 

God is doing something different in me now.  I don't like it so much, but I'm learning to live with it.  I'm never going to be famous, if that was ever possible.  That ship has sailed.  I have a lot to say.  MANY people have a lot to say.  There's so much noise in this world, and I don't want to contribute to more noise.  Sure, I dream of being published someday, but with an already over-saturated market, that dream may have to die.  That's ok.   Maybe no one will see anything I write.  I don't write for others.  I write for me.  Because it heals and deals.  It helps me deal with my junk because I can't keep it all bottled up, and as a result, it heals--slowly, but surely.  Maybe someone else will find healing in something I share because they are going through the same.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I enjoy knitting (when my hands aren't on the fritz), and I have found more enjoyment in gifting little items I have made with my own two hands than I ever found performing.  I miss performing.  I was good at it.  I lived for it.  But I was never good enough.  I don't have to be good enough anymore.  I can connect with people and with God in obscurity, and it is freeing.  There's a beauty all it's own just being obscure.  I cannot imagine having to get up in the morning every single day and performing all day long from the time my feet hit the ground.  I get to be messy, crazy me.  And it's ok!  God will be working on me til Kingdom come (um, literally), and I am thinking I'm ok with that. 

My dear friend and I were talking the other day about addiction.  I have some of those, you see, and they are unkind bedfellows.  You hate them, want them out of your life, and can't live with them--but as soon as you kick them to the curb, you miss them, just want to be wrapped up in their familiarity, and find yourself taking them back (even though you know you're going to repeat this whole cycle all over again).  I have never been ok with me because of them, and I have wrongly assumed God couldn't possibly be ok with me due to them.  But, guess what??  He's more than ok with me!  He's wild about me!  He's working on me, and I'm letting him (even though we sometimes don't agree with one another, wink, wink).  I need a lot of fine-tuning, and I will never arrive.  But I have found this new place that fits me.  I can rest in his grace and love and strive to serve him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and when I fall he is still right there helping me up, brushing off my knees, and setting me back on the right path--the one that leads to freedom. 

I need to be obscure.  I can't do performance any longer.  But I have found so much beauty here in this place.  I get to be me!  It doesn't drive him crazy that I like to study until I cry or freak out, that I like to debate because I actually enjoy it, that I need some quiet time, that I get overwhelmed and super sad when my meds don't work out (stupid cancer) and my body gets out of whack, that I feel inadequate and a failure.  He's ok with all of it.  And if I shut up and block out all the noise, I hear his voice calling me to just rest a bit--to climb up into his not-so-obscure lap and just let it all go for a minute.  HE is beauty.  I am obscure.  And there is Absolute Beauty in obscurity. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sabotaged: A Review

Sabotaged, by Dani Pettrey, is the 5th book in the Alaskan Courage series.  This book picks up with Reef McKenna and Kirra Jacobs.  It is action-packed, moves fast, and a pretty decent book.  This is probably my favorite book in this series, though it is not a favorite series.  The reader is invited into the depths of Kirra's trauma, and we discover the love Reef holds for Kirra.  Working together in a race against time, Kirra learns to trust and find healing, and Reef learns to truly be selfless and find acceptance.  I am not a huge fan of this series as I feel that the narrative and depth is lacking, and the romance borders on cheesy, but this was stronger than the others in the series.  It was nice to tie up the loose ends and see restoration and fulfillment for both characters. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Resources . . .

These are a few of my favorite resources for the equipping of God's people in the midst of a hostile culture . . .




















 

If I could get everyone to read David Platt's book, Counter Culture, I would.  Every one of these books are incredible.  Know God.  Know Truth.  And Don't be ashamed to stand up for it. 

"I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments."  Colossians 2:4

"But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."  2 Timothy 4:5

"But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."  Jude 20-21

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."  Romans 16:20

Fire in My Bones . . .

Sometimes, it's really hard to keep sharing the love of Christ with others.  It's especially hard to share when your audience is hostile toward the idea of God in the first place.  I find myself often using aggressive apologetics because I'm so desperate for the person to see God--really see him, without the blinders.  But, that's exactly what's going on, isn't it??  Oh, my word, I have been a Jesus-Loving-Girl-Who-Can't-Get-Enough-of-the-Word off and on most of my life, but this newest season is overwhelming!  "Feed me your word, Lord!"  And in my most recent studying, I have realized more and more the influence of satan (yes, I truly believe this being exists) on the unbelieving world.  I see more clearly his hostility toward not only those who do/will believe, but his hostility toward all creation in general!  He seeks to destroy all the beauty of all creation, and he surely isn't content to stop with those who are called in Christ.  (h)e is a destroyer of all life, from the drug addict to the porn addict, from the bulimic to the gal who can't quit spending money and wracking up debt.  (h)e doesn't show partiality or favoritism.  (h)e is in all-out attack mode.  Period.  End of sentence.  Got it?? 

Because of all these things, I'm learning to pray differently, and I am not at all surprised by the physical attacks I have been undergoing.  We can certainly pray, "Father, please let them come to a saving knowledge of you," but we may want to back up a step further and pray, "Father, remove the blindness Satan has inflicted upon this soul," according to 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 which says:  "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."  Do you see that??  We feel such responsibility and gut-wrenching anguish when a person rejects the beauty of Truth, but we forget that they cannot see it.  We have to first pray that the veil and blindness is lifted. 

What in the world does this have to do with Fire in My Bones, you may ask??  A whole lot!  Sometimes I get weary.  Do you?  I get so tired of people misquoting God's Word, pulling passages out of context for their own selfish desires, outright propagating lies, and ignoring facts.  I even feel like screaming at times.  I get very agitated when those who call themselves believers in Christ deny everything that he said, glorify sin that completely destroys a person, and even encourage others to do so.  We know, from Scripture, that this will happen and has been happening all along.  But it doesn't make it any easier.  Here are just a few passages referring to those who will turn away from Truth:

"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."  2 Timothy 4:3-4 

"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."  1 John 2:19

"These are people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit."  Jude 19

"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised.  Amen."  Romans 1:25

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

If we are truly pro-life, then we are FOR ETERNAL LIFE!!  We can't keep the Gospel to ourselves when people are being destroyed all around us.  Christ came to set us free from the law of sin and death, he took our blame to the cross so we wouldn't have to.  Why in God's name would we intentionally glorify sin, the destruction of humanity, and deny life??  It is because some worship the created things (and beings) rather than God.  If you worship people (we are all one, we are all in this together, we belong to one another, yada yada yada--and things I have heard in 'christian' circles lately), then self is elevated above God.  Love the person because of a beautiful, holy God who made each individual in his image.  Love them enough to help them see Truth (and, yes!! We CAN know absolute Truth!), and love them enough to see them set free!

So, I have this problem.  I have a fire in my bones!  I want to just keep quiet and keep it to myself because I am tired of people rejecting the beauty and perfection of the Truth of Jesus Christ.  I want to see people truly set free.  I do not like conflict, and I do not like arguing.  But I have to tell others about Jesus.  I am pro-life!  I am for the full life every person can know in Christ, therefore:

But if I say, "I will not mention his word
   or speak anymore in his name,:
his word is in my heart like a fire,
   a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
   indeed, I cannot.

Jeremiah 20:9 NIV

And remember this dude??  "Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring--those who keep God's commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus."  Revelation 12:17 NIV

I will keep on telling you how much Jesus loves you.  I will hold fast to Truth.  I have tried to dismantle it, and I only believe more.  I cannot keep quiet, and I won't.  I not only want to tell you all about him, I want to show you by how I live and love and serve.  God is holy, make no mistake.  But he is also TRUE love.  There is no other substitute, and I just can't hold that in. 

Be Resolved!!

I was going to submit this for publication, but I didn't want to wait and play the acceptance/rejection game.  Encouraged by my dear friend, I'm putting it on my blog instead.  Let me know your thoughts!

"But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." Daniel 1:8 NIV*

Recently, I had a brief text "conversation" with a friend. She was lamenting the fact that she didn't feel the desire or will to lose weight, even though she knew she needed to. I had heard this so many times from her, but something in me shifted this time--a tenderness, if you will. I replied that she should ask God to give her that desire, and I left it at that. I opened my Bible that evening trying to decide whether or not (yes, I know in advance how very Bible-geeky this is) I wanted to begin my new study with the captivity phase of the Israelites (Daniel), or the post-captivity books. I chose Daniel because my OCD mind would not allow me to reverse the order. So, I opened up my Bible to Daniel 1, researched some background information, and dived in. I had been implementing this new strategy of study in which I read a passage or chapter, and then I thoroughly journal about it. As one who had grown tired and weary of study, this was a refreshing course of action, inspired by a lovely movement called If:Equip. It was certainly feeding my soul. Now, back to the passage in Daniel. I had read Daniel several times throughout my life, and I had heard many sermons preached on the book of Daniel. This time, however, something stuck out to me that didn't necessarily have anything to do with the prophetic nature in which I normally heard a sermon. Remember, this was the same evening I had just had the "conversation" with my friend about weight loss.

So, I'm reading along about how God handed the Judahites off to captivity due to their disobedience (vs.2), and how the King ordererd his chief official (who also happened to be a Eunuch, if you study that one up a bit) to hand select for the King's service some of the Israelites of nobility and royalty. Scripture is quite clear that these were "young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified" (vs. 4). Lets face it. These were the kingdom hotties who had lived a life of privilege. These same hotties were now Babylonian captives forced into service for the King himself. The Chief of the Officials, Ashpenaz, was the one in charge of their training, and he was to fully immerse them in Babylonian culture. Where did that begin (and I love this part)? Language and Literature. They were to learn the language, the stories, the myths, the festivals, the histories--full immersion, people. If they had films back then, they would have watched all the popular films that represented this culture.

All of this is interesting, but this next portion is the kicker for me. What do we usually think about when anticipating travel to a new land? I immediately think about the food. Will I get to feast on fresh, exotic fruits and breads, or will I be eating bugs or some other disgusting meat I can't name? Will I end up getting worms from the water, or will I enjoy my food experience? As a pampered American with far too many choices, I have become considerably agitated and terrified by the thought of eating something I'm not comfortable eating. God forbid, right? Well, in fact, God forbid for Daniel and his friends. Verse 5 tells us that not only were they immersed intellectually, but they were also immersed dietarily (is that even a word?). "The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service." At face value, this seems like an excellent deal. These captives didn't have to worry about foraging for food in the garbage dumps of Babylon, and they knew they were set for 3 years. However. There's always that, isn't there? However. It all seems good, but . . . I can imagine, and with a little digging into the dietary habits of ancient Babylon, I'm sure you will also find that many of the foods the king probably enjoyed were in direct violation of the dietary restrictions given to the Israelites. Not only that, they were most definitely offered to the gods of Babylon, and therefore, unclean and defiled.

So, what did Daniel do? Did he fret and pray that God would just forgive them since they were forced into an impossible situation? Did he partake only to feel bad later? Did he wait until he felt he should act? No! "But Daniel RESOLVED not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." vs. 8. Wow! Did you catch that phrase? "But Daniel resolved . . . " In our English dictionaries, the adjective "resolve" means, "firmly determined to do something". Or, in our case, to NOT do something. Other English versions use such words as "purposed" (NKJV/KJV), "determined"(NLT), "made up his mind"(NASB). I like the word "resolved", which is used by both the NIV and the ESV. Though Daniel and his friends were quite literally in captivity, he did not allow his captivity to keep him captive! He resolved! (And it's ALWAYS easier to do that with friends, right?) So, Daniel goes to that chief official and tells him he and his friends don't want to eat the king's food. They will eat only veggies and water (yep, you read that right . . . and which provided much fodder for modern day diet books). The official, though "God caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel" vs. 9, was still afraid of the king. Remember that this same official was a Eunuch, and not so by choice. He, too, was a captive of the king. So, he uses the line that strikes fear in even the modern reader "off with his head!" in speaking of his reason for not allowing Daniel and his friends this food trial. So, Daniel turns to the guard appointed to him by the chief official. He requests a 10-day test, and the guard agrees to it. Nothing but veggies and water, folks. Somehow, and we know it is only because of God's goodness, Daniel and his friends pass the test and end up looking healthier and more nourished than all the other captives eating the king's food. "So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead." vs. 14.

Do you realize that Daniel and his friends were not only blessed immensely by God for their resolve, and given favor and gifts unsurpassed in the kingdom, but he literally sustained them their entire time in captivity? There is no verse, and no reason whatsoever, for us to believe that after the 10 day test they ate the king's food. They "resolved" not to be defiled. This means, and stay with me here, that Daniel and his friends ate veggies and water (and no getting around that in the Hebrew, friends) their entire Babylonian captivity. They did not wait until they felt they should make the change. They knew that by partaking of the king's food, they would be disobeying God. They chose to be faithful even though they seemed to have been in a position in which they could get away with no longer holding to their dietary restrictions. They may have been fully immersed in a pagan culture, but they did not allow themselves to be defiled when it was in their power to do so. Isn't that beautiful? This isn't really a passage about diet, folks. I get so tired of that, don't you? God is not telling us we can't have wine. He isn't telling us we can't have fruits, breads, meats, etc. However, Daniel and his friends knew that by partaking of this particular fare--sacrificed to false gods, filled with dirty foods that were unfit for the Israelites--they were truly becoming captives of Babylonian culture. And God raised them up. I love that! Whenever we resolve to follow God, he is the one who sustains us. There is no way on God's green earth I could, alone, resolve to only eat veggies and water for most of the remainder of my life.

So, back to my original "conversation." It hit me that we must "resolve" long before we ever feel like making that good decision. Nearly 3 years ago, after much crying out to God for him to heal my body and help me lose all the weight I gained due to thyroid cancer, I resolved. I resolved to quit crying about my situation and DO SOMETHING. I decided to walk into a Weight Watcher's meeting and make healthy choices--whether or not it worked, and whether or not I felt like it. I resolved to make one good choice, then another, then another. God blessed my resolve, and I lost all 75 pounds! Again, this isn't a passage merely about diet and weight loss. It's about Godly resolve. Saying, "I resolve!" I will not allow my culture to defile me. I will not remain in captivity. I can be free in the midst of physical captivity when I allow God to free me from spiritual captivity. We can't wait until we "feel" like it. We could literally die if we do. I was obese and very unhealthy. I did not "feel" like working hard since nothing had previously worked. However, I knew I wasn't honoring God. I knew my extra weight was not only harming my physical body, but my spiritual body as well. I couldn't do all the things God called me to do as long as I was in captivity.

So, if I could have this conversation with my girlfriends, whether it be about weight loss, financial decisions, cultural captivity, etc, I would say, in all the wisdom of Daniel and his friends, "Resolve not to defile" yourselves. Resolve to follow God in obedience, even when it is impossibly difficult. And, girl, you know it was just as hard for them as it is for us today! Really? Veggies and water?? And, remember. These were men. We women can probably get by with salad and water everyday, but a man? That was God--completely God. And this same God gives us this same strength today to resolve. So, don't wait until you feel like it, resolve today to walk in obedience. He will do the rest.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Let's Break Up (and how my love for (c)hurch was restored in the midst of a split)

I grew up with an eclectic, yet rich, church background.  My mom began taking my brother and I to a small Nazarene Church, and that's really all I remember for many years.  Fast forward to a split, and mom takes us to the local Wesleyan church.  I call these years the "holiness formation" years.  I learned about quiet times, seeking to be holy, and experience during these years.  Fast forward to my junior high and high school years when I dabbled in a variety of churches:  the local non-denominational (charismatic) church in which I learned how to pray with boldness and confidence, then a local Baptist church I attended with a boyfriend and his family in which I first heard of KJV-onlyism and music with a beat being inappropriate (this church experience negatively impacted my view of Baptists, and still does to some degree --I am truly sorry, my precious Baptist friends.  Jesus is still working on me).  We then softly landed at a medium size free Baptist church with an incredible teacher, the likes of whom I haven't heard since (and who still faithfully Pastor's my father's church).  I learned a love for Scripture here.  I learned grace, love, community, and knowledge here.  It was a lovely place.  Then I went to college.  YIKES!!  I had felt emotionally drawn to Catholicism off and on my entire childhood, but I thought you had to be born Catholic to be Catholic--so that was that.  I never landed anywhere in college.  Sure, we attended an Assemblies of God, and I would sometimes drive home to the local Charismatic Church, but I never connected. 

Fast forward to post college when my hubs and I ended up at a small Baptist Church.  It was there I learned doctrine for the first time, systematically speaking.  It was also where I became hyper aware of inconsistencies, legalism, being someone's project, etc.  I loved so many people there, and I really did learn a lot.  But it was also a place filled with pain--some due to immaturity, some due to sin.  We left said little church for bigger Baptist Church in the same affiliation, and I started to feel that sense of community again.  However, I had some nagging questions.  By then I had learned a variety of opposing doctrines, and I was trying to sort out for myself why I believed what I believed.  I went through a major crises of faith.  I never once considered abandoning my love for Jesus.  But church??  That was another story.  I could do without her.  She was mean, legalistic, fought with everyone she disagreed with, stuck with her own, and produced plastic people.  So, I did what any normal girl would do in the midst of a faith crises--I joined the Catholic Church.  In the Catholic Church, I learned reverence and mystery and continuity and history.  The church has a long history!!  It didn't, in fact, start with the Anabaptists.  Hmm.  Who would have guessed?  It still has such a grip on my soul.  It is so other-worldly and beautiful, despite those teachings I do not agree with, it was a place of real healing for my soul.

However, hubs was NOT on board, and I get that.  I really do.  See, he was raised in the Assemblies of God church.  You could say there were differences.  So, we began a search together.  We visited a large non-denom church that was fine, but I couldn't handle it.  I had had a taste of all that lovely quiet, liturgy, mystery, reverence, and beauty, and I wasn't quite willing to abandon it entirely.  So, we were invited to attend a local Lutheran Church by some parents on the soccer team my husband coached.  We fell in love very quickly.  It was very different for hubs, but he loved it, and it was such a place of healing, finding myself, community, and all that beauty I so loved in the Catholic Church.  It was the perfect place for us to meet half way, and we were happy to raise our children there.  They loved it too.

We moved.  That was heartbreaking.  We tried a few churches out after the move, but none felt like "home" until we found that Lutheran Church in the same affiliation.  That was home for all of us.  After some time, there were doctrinal issues that crept up that bothered hubs.  I get it.  Again, I understand.  We made a drastic switch to a local Christian, non-denom church, and I was not. having. it.  No.Way.  Worship was this horrendous ordeal for me.  The first week there, I felt like someone was scratching the chalkboard next to me.  But the kids loved it.  They loved it, and I saw them come alive.  I heard them talking about it after church, during the week, and looking forward to going back.  One kiddo (who couldn't stand going to church) was drawing pictures about how much she loved the new Pastor.  So, I kept my mouth shut and just argued with myself and God instead.  Slowly, I began to fall in love with the simplicity and sincerity of this congregation, despite the fog, lights, and concert feel.  Did I mention it was huge??  The Lutheran Church we had been members of was roughly the same size, but this just felt ENORMOUS.  Soon after I worked through all my crazy issues with worship style and began to fall in love with this style of worship, the church went through a massive split.

Are. you. kidding.  me??  Nope.  They really did.  But, again, our kids LOVED it!!  They were terrified we would leave, so I kept my mouth shut and argued with myself and God.  Again.  Ok.  I did complain to my hubs and friends as well.  The move was so very rough on them, so we were NOT leaving this church.  In fact, I told our kids that unless a Pastor stood up front and denied Jesus, we were staying.  So we did, and here's what I learned.

I learned a lot about myself.  You see, I grew up believing church was all about me.  My preferences.  My experiences.  My ideas of perfection.  I grew up believing that if said church hurt your feelings or no longer met your needs (or God forbid, experienced a split), you just picked up your pack and headed to the next place.  I learned that I never truly felt planted because I learned at a young age to just quit when the going got tough.  I learned a lot about the church, too.  Yes, Jesus died for the Church universal, but he also died for the church local.  And he plants us locally.  How could I say I stood for the Church when I couldn't even stand by little church??  I learned that it really is all about Jesus and HIS bride--He died for her!  He died for her brokenness, her sin, her inability to maintain a conflict-free zone for long, and even her hypocrisy.  He died for her.  He died for me.  I am a part of something so much bigger.  I am blessed to be able to live in a country in which I can drive to a local congregation, sing my heart out, read Scripture collectively, and hear the Word taught.  Do I really want to abandon the true faith over preferences?  Or did I want to be a part of safe guarding Truth for my children and my children's children??  I learned that happens at the local, and very messy, level.  You can't create any other route.  It's a local church, peeps. 

I love my church.  I have never experienced the sense of community I now experience.  I have never felt more love and solidarity in the midst of seeing what seems like half our congregation walk out the door over music style, preaching style, preferences--not Truth.  They didn't leave because Jesus was denied.  They didn't leave because His Word was no longer taught.  And I could have just joined the mob and left as well.  I wanted to.  I would have missed out on so very much.  I am here to stay.  WE are here to stay, my family and I.  We have learned that people mess up.  The church didn't find itself in the mess it was in overnight.  Nope.  I have watched our head Pastor remain courageous, faithful, and filled with integrity despite outright lies, meanness, and misrepresentation.  I am thankful for the split.  Yes, it's sad to see people go, and I wish many had stuck around to see the beautiful work God is doing in our church, but if all this needed to happen just to teach me not to bolt when times get tough, to support those barely hanging on, to learn the church isn't about my preferences but about what Jesus wants to do through each of us at the local level, then it was well worth it.

For the first time, I love her--I love this messy church that He died for.  I want to be a part of that sacred deposit, and I want to be a part of this beautiful community that just loves Jesus and wants to share him with everyone without all the fanfare. And all those lessons I learned throughout the years?  They really make sense now.  They have all come together in my soul, and they have prepared me for this time.  I love my Pastor, Elders, and fellow servants in Christ.  When the going gets tough, we have to do a face plant and get real with God.  I am thankful for what a messy church split taught me about my faith, about the church, and about my place within it all.  We are in a beautiful place right now, and we could have missed out on it all.  Wherever their is pain and suffering, healing is in the wings. And that healing is deeply profound.  It truly is.  So, lets not break up, ok??  Lets stick this out and see what Jesus is going to do because of it.  I love my church--little c.  It's home.  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Beyond All Dreams: A Review

I will begin my review by stating that I love Elizabeth Camden's novels!  She is a superb writer, and Beyond All Dreams was certainly no disappointment.  The historical fiction genre is a personal favorite, and I was thrilled to receive her newest title    As a former library employee and lover of all things literature, this book was a balm to my soul.  It beautifully mixes history, intrigue, romance, strength, faith, and integrity.  Really, does it get any better than this?  As usual, Camden's female characters are no wimps.  These are strong women with strong faith.  The main female character in this novel is no exception.  With a tragic disability, the reader is quickly drawn to stand up for the defenseless, yet the beauty of forgiveness and redemption interwoven throughout is faith-affirming. 

If you are a reader that is intrigued with early American History, loves reading, loves libraries, and desires to read a novel that glorifies God, look no further.  This is a lovely book with such depth.  I really must add visiting the Library of Congress to my bucket list.  And this book is a reminder of the fragility and beauty of the human soul that God longs to heal for his glory!  Thank you, Elizabeth, for yet another beautiful novel. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Prayer Shawl Knitting and Crocheting . . .

I have been feeling a little discouraged this week, and I have been praying about my next service project.  At my previous church, we had a lovely prayer shawl ministry.  We made prayer shawls for cancer patients, and I loved it.  I would like to do that again and donate to our local cancer treatment center.  So, who's in??  We will be making prayer shawls to donate to I.U. Health and/or St. Vincent, depending on the number completed.  Below I will list several simple patterns for prayer shawls, including a pattern I wrote as well.  Also, please leave me a comment indicating whether or not you will be joining me.  I will email you contact info for mailing or dropping off finished shawls. 

Before the links,  I am going to list the ONLY prayer shawl yarn I will accept for these projects.  I know this may seem a pain, but it ensures we will actually be able to deliver the completed shawls.  Having worked on many of these in the past, there are very clear guidelines for what is, and is not, accepted.  Also, please do not smoke or keep projects in an area where there is a lot of pet hair.  The centers will NOT accept any completed shawls that have pet hair or smoke smell.  They will toss them, and that's too much hard work to throw away.  I would suggest, if you smoke and/or have pets, to work on your project(s) at a local library and keep in a sealed, extra large ziplock bag.  If you are still concerned, throw the item in your wash/dry (if not wool based) on gentle and low heat.  Seal in bag immediately.  Use ONLY hypoallergenic-fragrance free detergent (such as Arm and Hammer Sensitive, or All Free and Clear). 

Yarn
*Caron Simply Soft
*Bernat Satin
*Red Heart Soft (NO RED HEART SUPER SAVER ALLOWED)
*Premiere Encore Soft
*Vanna's Choice
*Superwash Merino is fine
*Lion Brand Cotton-Ease
*Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton
*Lion Brand Homespun

If you can find an exact equivalent store-brand (Hobby Lobby, Michael's, or Jo-Ann), or an exact equivalent at KnitPicks. com, you are welcome to use those as well. 

Color Suggestions:
*Please use neutrals, warm tones, and cool tones.
*Please do NOT use black or black combinations, or neons.

Men love receiving these as well!  Leave off the fringe, use a basic stitch that isn't lacey, and stick to blues and earth tones (again, no black). 

Patterns for Beginners:

http://www.lionbrand.com/patterns/70374AD.html    (crochet)

http://www.shawlministry.com/instructions.html

My pattern:

Using any hook size with matching yarn size:
Chain until piece measure 58"-60" inches

Row 1:  Working in 2nd back bump (neither loops) from hook, Half Double Crochet across, chain 2, turn.
Row 2:  Ignoring chain 2, work Half Double Crochet in Back Loop Only in 1st HDC across, chain 2, turn.
Row 3:  Ignoring chain 2, work Half Double Crochet in Front Loop Only in 1st HDC across, chain 2, turn. 
Repeat rows 2 and 3 until desired width (approx. 15"-20", wider is better), ending with Row 3.  Add fringe or leave as is.  This is a lovely knit look pattern.  I love using this with an L hook and Homespun in Barley or Pearl, or with a J Hook and Caron Simply Soft in a neutral color.  This pattern can be worked horizontally as well.  Just follow the measurements guidelines.

Please message me if you have any questions!!  If you are looking for something more challenging, visit your local library and pick up a copy of the Knitted Prayer Shawl Companion or Crochet Prayer Shawl Companion, or search Ravelry.com. 



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Left Behind. Please. Don't Even.

Although I do realize this topic isn't an important one in the Jesus Kingdom-economy, I believe a distortion of God's Word concerning the End Times can be extremely dangerous.  The premillennial dispensational eschatology never made much sense to me no matter how many commentaries, books on Systematic Theology, or popular authors preaching that genre I read.  It didn't make sense to me then, and it sure doesn't now.  I was terrified of that teaching growing up.  Absolutely terrified.  I would hide underneath my bed every time the moon was red-tinged, I would freak out if I couldn't get a hold of someone because, God forbid, what if I was left behind??  And I certainly never had any happy thoughts of leaving behind others so I could experience a "beam me up, God" moment while the rest of the Earth went to hell.  I am, by deep conviction and intense study, Amillennial in my eschatology, and happily so.  It is a place of peace that also teaches the Christian to be ready regardless because, as the Apostle's Creed attests, "He will come again to judge the living and the dead" . . . We have to have grace with this, I know.  And I don't expect earnest seekers to all come to the same conclusions I have either.   That is fine!!  What I do take issue with, and what I have been accused of, is the idea that if one does not hold to premillennial dispensationalism, then one is not a true believer.  This is wrong and dangerous to teach. 

Anyway, this is why my children will NOT see Left Behind, and I will never encourage them to read the books (they are free to read them, of course, but I won't be picking up any copies willingly).  If you are curious as to why I feel so passionately about this topic, please feel free to click on one of the links below that all well represent my concerns for Biblical honesty in our Eschatology (by the way, that fancy-shmancy word just means study of the end times).  Without further ado . . .

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2009/10/06/what-you-must-believe-if-you-are-a-premillennialist/

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/CarlsonPremillenial.php

http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/i-am-an-amillennialist--because-of--revelation-20

http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/eschatology/why_the_early_church_finally_rejected_premillennialism.shtml

Thursday, January 8, 2015

the beginning of wisdom: which promises are for me?

the beginning of wisdom: which promises are for me?: Not many things are more comforting than a promise made and kept. And not many things are more hurtful than a promise broken. Knowing we ...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How to Crochet Seamless Ribbing--My Favorite Ribbing Method for Top-Down Beanies!



This is my absolute go-to/favorite method for using on sleeves, hat bands (top down), or any ribbing that needs to be sewn on (no, thank you).  I frequently use the hdc blo, but for littles, the sc in blo is perfect!  Sharing is caring, right??

So, What About Joseph?

Our family is reading through the New Testament this year.  I have been reading through the Bible each year, but it was getting boring.  Sorry.  Just being honest.  I had read the same thing over and over and over again.  This year is different.  I prayed for new eyes to see what I haven't yet seen, and God has answered that plea.  So, while reading Matthew 1 and 2, I noticed someone that I hadn't paid much attention to before.  Joseph.  Mary gets a lot of attention around Christmas, but I don't often hear much mentioned concerning Joseph.  I am completely undone by the obedience of Joseph (and the Magi).  So many characters in God's story helped fulfill His will due to their obedience.  I read 4 instances in which God spoke directly to Joseph, via an angel through dreams.  Joseph was so in tune with His Creator that he immediately obeyed all 4 times. There is no narrative recording that he questioned the dream or the message.  Me?  I would have said, "Did I seriously dream that??", "It was just a dream," or "What in the world??".  Not Joseph.  We find narrative recorded for both Zechariah and Mary when they are confronted IN PERSON by an angel.  In fact, the Magi were also warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they obeyed.  I am chastened by their obedience and marvel at the power of dreams.  I long for God to visit me a time or two in a dream, though I'm thankful to simply have his Word.  Even more, I long for the unwavering confidence in my God that leads to faithful obedience.  So, I would like to say that I desire for God to give me a "Joseph" heart!  A "Magi" heart!  A heart so in tune with Him, and a heart that always searches for him until he may be found (Proverbs 2:5).  He wants to be found!  He wants us to search for him as for hidden treasure (Proverbs 2).  Mary displayed humble obedience to be sure.  As did Joseph.  No wonder (and doesn't it all make sense now?) he was chosen to surrogate father the Savior of the world.  Obedience is the 1st step in living out this radical faith--not a slavish obedience to man-made, legalistic rules, but an obedience to the Living Word revealed to us in Scripture.  I want to know him.  You too??

Preach It, Sister!

So, I was recently sharing with a kindred Jesus-sister my testimony.  I haven't done a whole lot of that in the past.  As a Christian, I've never had one of those intense conversion stories that people drool over while hearing.  Mine is one of calm (and I've never been a calm person, go figure).  I was thinking about the fact that although my testimony isn't mind-boggling or sensational, it is beautiful all the same and worth telling.  As I shared with my friend,  I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember.  My first images are blurry watercolors from my Children's Bible.  I remember carrying that Bible around (and mom said I got it when I was 3) and though I couldn't read the words, the pictures spoke deeply to my soul.  Then the day came that I COULD read those words, and Oh, my!  I couldn't stop.  I can clearly recall dragging that storybook Bible everywhere.  Everywhere.  My kiddos all did the same with theirs as well, and it warms me up inside just thinking about it.  Once I graduated to a big kid Bible, I read it all the time and always had a quiet time.  After all, my childhood background of the Nazarene and Wesleyan traditions cultivated in me this devotional-style reading.  I can't remember NOT reading my Bible and even had a subscription to a youth devotional magazine.  I was proud of my worn and torn Bible.  It was the place I turned (the literal pages I turned) to meet God.  I became fascinated by doctrine/theology during college, and it became such an obsession after taking several different Bible courses for my Children's Ministry minor, that it actually got in the way of that love I once had with God's Word.  It became a burden trying to figure out what everything meant, and trying to get it exactly right!  Sadly, it even led to some legalism.  I am now a recovering "legalist", and I have been experiencing the reinvigoration of exploring God's Word in depth but with great joy.  Doctrine and theology are important.  However.  They MUST NOT get in the way of God.  We do that a lot, don't we?  Put other things before God?  Doctrine, theology, denominational distinctions, rules, rules, rules, excess and unbalanced grace -- you name it.  I needed to be that little girl again that read, trusted, and obeyed.  I want to be her.  I do love studying God's Word, and I am very prayerful and careful to not distort God's Word for my own selfish purposes, but there is nothing like opening up His Word, reading a passage or book in its entirety, and letting it wash over you.  Cleanse you.  Lavish you.  Teach you.  Rebuke you.  Encourage you.  Equip you.  Oh, I love the written Word.  I love the Living Word.  I love sharing on paper the deep truths the Holy Spirit is showing me.  I love getting out of the way of what HE wants me to see, rather than what I want to see.  Simplicity.  Why do we complicate it?  So, my testimony is steady, even, and sure.  I'm so very thankful for that.  I've loved and known Jesus basically my entire life.  We have had our ups and downs together, and I know one thing for certain:  He is a covenant-keeping God who cannot lie, who will never leave you or forsake you, and who walks right alongside you and will continue to do so until that face-to-face.  And, guess what??  You will know him.  You will hear his voice, and you will run into his arms because you took the time to get to know him.  Read on, sister, and know your Jesus!
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27. 

The Art of Healing (literally) . . .

Since having been diagnosed with cancer, my body has been a bit bent out of joint over it's "new normal".  For instance, we aren't fond of the hormone issues, the daily reliance on a tiny pill that determines the outcome of the day, the insomnia, nor the occasional panic attacks.  Yuck, and NO THANKS.  However.  However.  However.  I have learned different ways to whip said body into shape, and the "dark days" are fewer than the light days.  For instance, my body needs exercise.  If I don't exercise regularly, you may as well pack me like a sardine in bed because that's what happens.  I am not able to function unless I have exercised my muscles and raised my body temp a bit.  I will literally roll myself up in a blanket and try not to move lest I remove the warmth my body so desperately longs for.  I stay warm as long as I move.  Period.  Second, I have taken to using my down times constructively.  Once, I awoke in the middle of the night with a crippling panic attack in which I was ripping out imaginary IV lines from my arm.  The brain fuzz clears just long enough for me to realize what's happening, so I get out of bed, grab my Bible, and read Psalm after Psalm until my heart stills again.  The best mechanism I have found, however, is that of knitting and crocheting.  Sometimes it seems impossible to pray (which is why I pray the Psalms), and sometimes I can't even talk right because my body flips out, and my tongue and brain just don't make the connection.  In those moments, I pick up my knitting (next to my bed), and I just start knitting.  I knit, and I pray.  I knit (and crochet during the day ;) with a purpose so I can give it away once it's finished.  I knit/crochet for the homeless, for preemie's, for shut-ins, and cancer fighters, and I knit for friends and family.  It is healing, and I don't feel like referencing ALL the health benefits (though I will share a few).  There are many concrete, documented studies on the effects of knitting/crocheting on the brain and heart.  It lowers my blood pressure/pulse, thus slowing down my racing heart, it calms me completely, and it brings me to a place where I can clearly pray--for myself and for others; for the one who will receive the gift.  So, art IS healing.  My most favorite gift to give is that of passing on the craft to another weary, wounded traveler.  Sure, I love making things, and I even get paid to make items.  However, I would much rather teach YOU how so you can experience that same gift as well.  God knows I have always been busy with my hands and mind as I have an extensive music performance background.  My life has changed, my course has been re-routed, and God knows I still need that in my life.  So he gave me this.  Might I share it with you as well?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Patmos Deception: A Review

I admit from the beginning that I am a huge fan of T. Davis Bunn.  I have been waiting to read this
particular title.  This is a fast moving, suspense-filled, historical treatment of Patmos, John, and the book of Revelation that collides with modern intrigue.  I finished this book in less than 2 days, and I was completely engaged the entirety of the novel. 

A quick synopsis:  two lifelong friends reunite across the world to work on different fronts to help solve a case of art theft.  They meet up with characters in complicated economic situations that find themselves in places they may never have found themselves had they been part of a stable economy.  There are beautiful glimpses of faith throughout this book, many complications (both personal and international), well-shaping of each character, and light romance. 

I am hoping that there is a sequel for this book.  It truly was fantastic, but I felt the novel left with an open door for more, which I will gladly read!