Tag Archive: Bible

To Lent…or Not To Lent

3
6
Posted by | 8 Comments

b45037a73a99965e59ee6b23962e1eeaLent has never been strongly encouraged in the churches I’ve been a part of, but I have participated a few years here and there.  As yesterday came and went, I still couldn’t decide.. “Do Lent?? ..Don’t do Lent??” My main struggle was over my attempt to honestly avoid using it as a form of “Self Help.” I didn’t want to give up something I’d been meaning to cut back on, or use it as motivation to achieve a goal. Getting bikini ready for spring (oh, and Jesus) seemed a bit disingenuous. Maybe you can give up something you love and think of Jesus, but I just usually end up mostly dwelling on “How many days are left??!”

Lent was designed to prepare a follower of Christ for the celebration of Easter. Through prayer and reflection, we sacrifice things in order to identify with the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness without food, water, or companionship. I thought I’d  read the story to see if it sparked an idea for a more intentional practice. What jumps out first is it opens with, “Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness.”  He was led there by the Spirit. If I’m going to do Lent, I should at least pause and ask God if it is something He is leading me into.

As soon as the 40 Days were over, the Devil starts in on Jesus by tempting Him to turn stones into bread. He wanted Jesus to lose faith and resolve that God would provide and fully support Him during His journey. When looking for something to give up, we can ask ourselves: 

  • What keeps me from trusting God with my life? …Is it my calendar? Obsessive complaining? My finances?  
  • What things keep me from being grateful or noticing His provision on a daily basis? …Pinterest? Comparison to others? Shopping? TV?

Next the Devil tries to test Jesus’ trust that God will protect Him. I could spend forever on how our culture, myself included, is obsessed with safety and struggle to trust God in this area. We might ask ourselves:

  • What things am I doing on my own because I don’t believe deep down God will come through?…  Am I a workaholic? Can I attempt to give up worry with the words I say to myself and others? Am I too focused on something I want that I don’t have?
  • What crazy things do I do to control situations? How am I holding on too tightly to things and people I love? …What could I stop doing that would teach me to entrust them to God? Do I snoop on Facebook? Do I hover? Is there an outlet I use to channel my fear?

The final temptation is fascinating to me. Jesus knows he has a very tough road ahead of Him. Since He will soon go through great pain and suffering on the cross, the Devil tempts  Jesus with an easier road. He offers Jesus the illusion of a shortcut and wants Him to lose faith that God knows best. We can ask:

  • Where am I distracted from or full-on avoiding the life God is calling me into?
  • What things am I doing or not doing because I am struggling to believe God’s way is best? 

Jesus went straight into the wilderness from His baptism where God told Him, “You are my Son and I love you.” Immediately after, Satan is right there casting doubt on Jesus’ identity.

  • What keeps me from believing I am fully loved by God… Social media? Certain people in my life? Lies I dwell on?
  • What could I add in that would help my heart and mind believe I am His  and fully loved ?  ..Reading, praying, memorizing Scripture.

Lent is not about getting fit, organizing a closet, or checking off the “I read my Bible” box. We have a greater opportunity to identify with Jesus as He struggled to affirm His identity and trust His father with His life before going to the cross.

To Lent..or Not to Lent.  I still need a bit more time to sit with my own questions (welcome to my crazy head). I’ll be late about it, but the end result will be better. If you need ideas, blogger Rachel Held Evans put out 40 Ideas for Lent 2014 you may want to take a look at. I’d love to know what you are giving up or adding in this season.

Photo by: helt enkelt

8 Comments

A Good Woman is Hard to Find

5
12
Posted by | 16 Comments

photo-1

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.” (Prov 31:10 MSG) Or, in the NIV, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies”

I never thought too much about Proverbs 31 until my friend Aleica told me the story behind it. In the Hebrew, it is an alphabetical acrostic that Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, would have sung or recited to him. Each phrase is a character trait she wanted him to look for in a wife.

You can read this Description of a Good Woman here.

It’s interesting that God saw fit to save this ancient wisdom for us. He must still feel it’s important for men to look for these qualities, and for us as women to try and learn them. In addition to scripture, I’ve had the blessing of learning (well, attempting to learn) from my own mother. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ve written the modern-day traits I’ve seen lived out by my own mom, following the order of Proverbs 31.

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.(vs.10)

My dad trusts her and she has made his life better in every way.  She never tries to hurt, shame, or take from him. (vs.11-12)

She has always worked hard: as a special ed teacher, a mom of four, a neighbor, a friend, a servant in the church. (vs.13)

She has traveled the world- from Egypt to Australia, Europe to Latin America.  She was sport to backpack on her honeymoon and had to hitchhike her way home after getting lost in the mountains. Who is she!? (vs.14)

She does not get up early. She’s a rebel like that. She stays up late and makes sure everything gets done.  She is never moody. Her peaceful and loving spirit is what keeps our home together. (vs.15)

She feeds anyone who crosses her doorstep. Growing up, she stretched out my dad’s salary to feed 3 growing boys, my dad, and me. She silently prepared thousands of breakfasts, packed our lunches, and we had a home cooked dinner around the table nearly every night of my life. I believe most of who I am today was shaped at that table. Today, she hosts 30 people every Tuesday for bible study without batting an eye. (vs.16-19)

She extends her hand to the poor, welcoming anyone and everyone  into our home and church. She knows the name of every neighbor living on her street (in Orange County I might add), and makes a point to walk over with baked goods on a regular basis. She often invites them to church, even when they’ve turned her down before. She gets the life story of our grocery checker before we pay the bill. This used to embarrass me. It’s only now that I am appropriately astounded at the rare and powerful gift she provides others and the security she has in Jesus that gives her the courage to do so. (vs.20)

When you shop with her, she will buy you what you want:) It’s awesome. (vs.21)

She made our clothes growing up. I’m ok that she only does this now upon special request. (vs.22)

She brings honor to my dad’s name. Good choice, dad. (vs.23)

“Strength and dignity are her clothing” (vs. 25) She is strong. She gave birth four times without pain meds before it was hip. More importantly, she will not make me feel bad if I one day do the opposite.

“She smiles at the future.” (vs 25) Well….mom is a BIG worrier….But, she trusts my dad 100% to provide and be there for us.

She is the most kind, patient, and sacrificial person that I know. (vs.26)

She works hard is not lazy. (vs. 27)

My siblings and I love her dearly. (vs.28)

In a culture obsessed with beauty, my mom wears hardly any makeup and never has. I tease her for it but deep down I know watching her wake up every day truly satisfied in who she is, just as God made her, has made a lasting impact on me and how I view my worth.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” vs 30.

I love you, mom.

And to all you moms out there, for all the different ways you live Prov 31 out in your own way, I hope you feel loved and celebrated!

 


16 Comments

The Young Man and the Sea

1
24
Posted by | 11 Comments

tumblr_mb0yhmlvIW1qzx5hdo1_500[1]Last week, my sister-in-law treated the women in our family to the symphony. The music, atmosphere, and company were all delightful, but what I can’t stop thinking about is the composer, Rismsky-Korskov’s story. (Don’t be too impressed, I read it in the program)

As a child living in Russia, Rismsky was enamored with far off places and cultures. He would anxiously await letters from his older brother’s travels with the Navy and the exotic stories they held. In particular, Rismsky fell in love with the sea, even though he had never seen it.

I picture a small boy, dreaming up the sounds and sights of the waves in his bedroom, using only the written word and his imagination to put it together. For years he wished to see, smell, and hear the ocean before ever having the opportunity. At first it seems sad to think of someone loving something for so long and never getting to see it, and it’s easy to wish you could just rush in and take him. But when you listen to his music, you hear a magical and dramatic tone inspired by these years of waiting and daydreaming. His childhood grew in him a mind that could create and compose something beautiful out of nothing. It made me wonder what would’ve become of Rismsky had he gone to the sea right away. Would he still have become the same person?

66217056991588735_ZAo1ac8W_c

Clearly my own childhood love for the sea was never going to produce any sort of brilliance.

20130124-083125.jpg

But I do know what it’s like to want to see a new place, live another life, to love sights and sounds I’ve never seen or heard. From middle school all the way to graduation, I couldn’t wait to get out of the small town I grew up in. It’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate those years, certain they developed many of the best parts of me, including an appetite for the unknown. For good and for bad, my life will always need some measure of adventure;)

Rismsky’s story was a good reminder to keep dreaming bigger dreams, and to view the “not there yet” as the seasons God uses to prepare us for what is next. Typically, we can’t wait to reach the destination, even though the rough and unknown road shapes us into the people He wants us to be. Our natural tendency is to skip to the easy part, never knowing how our spirit was stunted by choosing comfort.

1829656069417994_x5hFJMs4_c

I came across this quote last year during a small group study.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I’d love to hear how this strikes you today. If you are in the middle of a difficult “not yet” season, I hope it encourages you. Perhaps you are “already there” and it’s time to push yourself into the unknown.  You only live once; find the next ocean to dream about and allow God to change you and use you in new ways. Please remind me to keep doing the same.

200480620882748974_PFS6FBpe_c“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. “—Psalm 52:8


11 Comments

What Child is This?

12
24
Posted by | No Comments

65794844526782571_isBQGtYV_c[1]

What Child Is This?

William Chatterton Dix, published ca. 1865

What Child is this, who laid to rest,

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christian, fear: for sinners here,

The silent Word is pleading.

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through,

The Cross be borne, for me, for you:

Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary!

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh;

Come peasant, king to own Him.

The King of Kings salvation brings;

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Raise, raise, the song on high,

The Virgin sings her lullaby:

Joy joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Jesus could’ve been born at any time, under any circumstances. Really?? A barn in the Middle East? “Why lies He in such mean estate?” Surely He could’ve come up with a plan that didn’t include taking on a feeble body, capable of exhaustion, hunger, pain, and death. It doesn’t make any sense. Martin Luther said, “He sunk Himself into our flesh” and that it is, “beyond all human understanding.”

I’ve always loved the carol, What Child is This? because it asks the question in so many words, “Who would do this?”

91972017361579586_UrQJJiQt_c[1]

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14

“The Word” is another name for God, and this short verse tells the story of Christmas. It’s describes the unthinkable moment when God came down to live in the harshness of earth. Karl Barth called it the, “climbing down of God.”

This is Christ our King.” He wasn’t born in a palace and he didn’t live a life of comfort. Jesus could’ve surrounded himself with the most powerful and influential people living in that day but chose to hang out with beggars, and outcasts instead. From the way he was born and all the way through his death, Jesus’ entire life was the continual giving up of power, prestige, and well-being.

Quite frankly, Jesus lived his life in the opposite direction I normally try to live mine. He went downward, while I feel a constant desire to move upward. I want to hold on to comfort, safety, and pleasure when those are the exact things he let go of on Christmas. And why did he do this? As the carol says, “Good Christian, fear: for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading.” Even as a baby, God was earning our forgiveness.

I heard a great sermon this morning (by my dad:) that touched on the inn keeper in the Christmas story who didn’t have time to deal with Mary and Joseph when they showed up on his doorstep. Can you imagine being that guy? God has literally given up heaven to come to earth and you can’t give up a bed for his pregnant mother. Sadly, I do this kind of thing all the time. Even at Christmas, right when I should be thinking about all Jesus gave up to be here, I find myself too busy with my own agenda to spend quality time with Him. If you’re like me, then it’s time to make it happen- pray, attend a Christmas Eve service, or read the story. However you do it, I pray God meets you in a powerful way this Christmas.


No Comments

It’s Fall…. or so They Say

9
24
Posted by | 20 Comments

The first day of fall is known as the autumnal equinox.  Equinox (Latin for equal night) is when the day and night are equal lengths and the sun is directly over the equator.  I read this happened in the US at exactly 6:49 a.m. ET on Saturday.  At first it felt comforting to hear something as large as the season of fall is contained nicely in a box and can be predicted down to the minute.  I suppose I prefer that to randomness.   But that kind of precision doesn’t mesh well with reality.  For starters, it was over 100 degrees on Saturday.  No one told the sun in Orange County it was time to back off.  It’s still too hot for a soy pumpkin spice latte and I’m stuck in a sundress instead of my favorite leather jacket.

This fall thing bothered me all weekend. (Proof that I may need more of a life)   There is no exact moment when seasons of life change.  I can’t turn to life and say, “Excuse me, it’s 2:13 pm on Monday and XYZ is supposed to take place.”  Life is far more chaotic.  Life is complicated.   I’ve been thinking a lot about the word complicated the past few months in relation to faith and life.  Christianity can feel like a box, like precision and calculation trying to enter (or worse, be shoved down) complicated lives.  Some problems feel too big and messy for the truths and wisdom of the Bible.  They can come off as cliché, simplistic, out of touch.  When your gay friend tells you being out and in a relationship has grown his relationship with God.  When the new guy who doesn’t go to church treats you way better than your Bible reading, small group going, regularly tithing ex. (and the two before him)   When your friend wants to know if it’s ok to divorce her husband for his porn addiction.  It’s then that you want to say to the simple answers- you don’t have all the facts! You don’t understand!  It’s not freaking fall. Step outside, it’s hot as hell!

Simple truth in a complicated moment can make you angry.  Reducing a big situation to a small one feels wrong- even when you are right.  I’ve come to think that this is a key part of why Jesus came.   After giving the written law, prophets, and setting up religion, God said, “I’ll send a baby.”  In the end, He didn’t just send us a book of wise teaching, a set of religious practices, and a moral code to follow…. He sent a person.  As important as that stuff is, it wasn’t enough.   Only a person can always offer something new to our lives.   Only a person was able to expose the heart behind the wisdom.  Only something living and breathing is complicated and fluid enough to enter into our ever-changing lives.  Christianity can seem too simple and finite at times.  Jesus never does.  He’s always surprising us- compassion for the ones who messed up, a harsh word for the ones who did everything right, a life of downward mobility in a world that pressures everyone to get ahead.  He continually did the unexpected.  He approached situations from left field.  And even now, He’s up to date on all the facts, sides, and contributing factors of our problems.  In a good way, He’s not one size fits all in His dealings with us.  He meets us where we are at.

In Colossians 2, Paul tells the church that religious practices, rules, cultural festivals, strict diets and a long list of other things are never meant to be the point of our faith.  He went so far as to call them useless for living correctly.  In verse 17 he says, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”  Like in Plato’s Cave, the shadows are only meant to be pictures of the real thing.  The real stuff, the whole point, the substance is Christ.

I find myself very grateful for this.  I’m so glad I follow a person instead of a religion.  Especially in a crazy world of eat at Chic-Fil-A/don’t eat at Chic-Fil-A, vote this way/don’t vote this way, bumper stickers, and soundbites that try to ignorantly tell us it is simple.  I hate that stuff.  And so I feel good about offering friends a person; a God/Man who is with us in our moments of need and confusion.   I recently had dinner with a friend in a bad relationship and I didn’t know what she should do.  While searching for the right advice, the thought came that she should just pursue Jesus.  I really believe that if she does, He’ll figure it out with her.  He’ll lead her in the right way. I can trust her to Him.  I believe He has something to say to all our lives if we’ll listen and take time to hear him.  His words won’t feel outdated, simplistic, or naïve- even if they’re ancient truths Christians have believed for thousands of years.   Because Jesus is not simple.  In fact, He’s the most complicated being that has ever walked the earth.

…So, take that fall. (Get it? Really bad Xtian joke on the double meaning of fall. Forgive me, I needed a conclusion and that’s all I had)


20 Comments