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Showing posts from March, 2011

Suds in the Bucket: My philosophy of work

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My hands spent a lot of time in soapy water today.
My little sister returned from a college trip to Spain earlier this week, loaded down with souvenirs for all, plenty of chocolate, and a bag of new dresses (courtesy of a monetary birthday gift from our grandparents).
Since my sister had several assignments due this week, I offered to wash her European-bought clothing. I then began rifling through the garments, looking for care labels.
The tags all boasted exotic origins -- Spain, France, and India -- and the fabric content was printed in wonderfully foreign words, including seda and viscosa. As I examined each dress carefully, I realized only one had a care label. Three of them were made of fabric I had never heard of. 
With the help of Google Translate, I realized I was dealing with silk, rayon, polyester, and one unknown. The safest way to clean these is to wash them by hand. So, I headed to the kitchen this morning loaded down with a bag of dresses, hangers, and my laptop (for launder…

'And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again'

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A couple months ago, I started reading through C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. I never read them as a child, though I watched all of the old movies. Like the real Lucy to whom Lewis dedicated The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the book I am currently reading), I am now "old enough to start reading fairy tales again."  It's been very slow going, as I don't make much time for pleasure reading these days. But the moments of quiet when I have wandered into Narnia have been sweet indeed.

Last night I read Lewis' description of the coming of spring to Narnia after the long reign of the Witch.
Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and beeches and elms. Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away …

Give us this day...

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Give us this day our daily bread...  (Matthew 6:11 ESV)Last Sunday, my church continued it's series on the Lord's prayer, using N.T. Wright's book on the topic. This week's sermon focused on the phrase "Give us this day our daily bread," examining the text from a variety of perspectives.

I enjoyed the sermon very much as a whole, but one portion in particular encouraged me. As the teaching drew to a close, Dr. Bolger outlined four ways that this phrase is significant. The first two were familiar, but at the same time, they were just what I needed to remember.
What does Jesus mean by "daily bread?" What is the significance of praying for "our daily bread?" 1. Our natural longings and desires for "bread (and all the human needs it symbolizes) are not "evil" or "wrong."2. It is right to pray honestly for our specific needs, not just general requests. We pray to "our Father." Our prayers hsould not only be for…

The Face of a Safe Church

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Yesterday, I read one of the final chapters in Cloud and Townsend's Safe People, titled "Where are the safe people?" In this chapter, the authors give practical advice on finding safe relationships.

It would seem that the obvious place to look for safe, healthy friendships would be the church. Cloud and Townsend, though, write honestly about the imperfect state of the church. They explain that people are often looking for a church with good doctrine but don't think to assess the relational health of the body. To help people in their search, the authors outline the characteristics of a safe church.
Safe ChurchesOne place where we can find safe people is in churches that have a safe character as a group. Many churches have good orthodox doctrine, but they are not bodies where relationship is really preached and community is formed. Safe churches, however, have the following qualities:
Grace is preached from the pulpit and is the foundation for how people are to be treat…

Hated Messengers to the End of Time

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A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:24-25 ESV)My reading in Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship today focused on Jesus instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10. The chapter, titled "The Suffering of the Messengers," dealt with the hard reality of the life of discipleship. One passage in particular stood out to me:
The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the divisions which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. The Cost of Discipleship was first published in 1937, during the height of Nazi Germany. Roderick Stackelberg,…

Love Consumers: David Lapp on courting in the Google age

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As a single woman navigating the world of relationships in the 21st century, I was intrigued by the tagline of yesterday's Boundless article -- "Courting and choosing a spouse in the age of Google." I quickly clicked my way to the Webzine and found myself reading the opening paragraphs of "What If She's Not the Right One?" by David Lapp. The article resonated with me on many levels, especially Lapp's assertion that we have become consumers of relationships.
As one of America's top marriage therapists, William Doherty notes the market model has increasingly invaded every sphere of life — including marriage. Whether it's at work, church or marriage, Doherty suggests that "[i]n a generation we have moved rapidly from being citizens to being primarily consumers." In other words, we've moved from being citizens of marriage who ask, "What can I do for my marriage?" to being consumers of marriage who ask, "What can marriage…

Practicing Hospitality

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Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9 ESV)Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2 ESV)By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35 ESV)There is nothing like gathering with friends around a kitchen table, sipping coffee and nibbling on homemade treats. Indeed, hospitality is one of life's greatest joys. It is little wonder that scripture commands it. Our good Father knows how to give good gifts to his children.

Though the door to my bedroom is shut, I can hear a chattering din emanating from my little brother's room. A family of nine are here for the afternoon, and the kids are making much over the game of Life and the box of toy dinosaurs (several of which make mechanical roaring noises every few minutes). Further off, I can hear the ebb and flow of the grown-ups in the living room, sharing life and it's ups and downs.

Keller's 'The Prodigal God:' I have been the older son

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In the first post of my Lenten series, I gave this definition of the season: "Lent is the season of the Christian year during which we take time to recognize our sin and tocelebrate God's all sufficient provision in Christ."

This is the 13th post of my project, though as I look over the content of the last couple weeks, I realize this series is very loosely defined. But this self-imposed discipline of daily blogging has done what I hoped -- it's helped me reflect more on what God is teaching me, and it has motivated me to make time to write. This Lenten discipline has also turned my mind to the past months, and to all the ideas that I simply didn't follow through with.

In January, I finished Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith. I'd heard all kinds of buzz about it, and I had been enticed by the warm tones of the inviting cover for some time. When I read it, I thought over and over, "I need to tell people abo…

Your Kingdom Come in Us

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We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21 ESV)What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)Over the last couple months, it seems like I've had several reoccurring spiritual themes in my life -- one being the role of the Church. In February, a book by N.T. Wright reminded me that we are a Kingdom people. Eric Bolger's book on intercession reminded me that we are a kingdom of priests, cal…

WSJ: 'Is Happiness Overrated?' Why, yes

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ~ The U.S. Declaration of IndependenceWhile skimming my Twitter feed last week, I came across an intriguing tweet by Christian author Gary Thomas: "'Is Happiness Overrated?' I think this WSJ article supports the premise in Sacred Marriage."
Following the link, I found myself looking at the recent Wall Street Journal article "Is Happiness Overrated" by Shirley S. Wang. 
Wang reports that researchers have found that pursuing happiness as defined by pop culture does not have the health benefits once thought: Some researchers say happiness as people usually think of it—the experience of pleasure or positive feelings—is far less important to physical health than the type of well-being that comes from engaging in meaningful activity. Researchers refer to this …

Knowledge According to John Bunyan

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Today's reading in The Pilgrim's Progress took up the discussion of knowledge. It often amazes me how much knowledge is devalued in today's church. The culture at large seems to respect it at some level. But we in the church have somehow separated faith from knowledge and in our zeal for one have lost the other. We did this for good reason, for knowledge doesn't save. But without knowledge, what hope do we have? Bunyan works out this discussion beautifully in the following passage. For knowledge, great knowledge, may be obtained in the mysteries of the gospel, and yet no work of grace in the soul. Yea, if a man have all knowledge, he may yet be nothing, and so consequently be no child of God. When Christ said, "Do you know all these things?" and the disciples had answered, Yes; he addeth, "Blessed are ye if ye do them." He doth not lay the blessing in the knowing of them, but in the doing of them. For there is a knowledge that is not attended with do…

Bonhoeffer and the Burden of Self

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This afternoon, Bonhoeffer reminded me of a lesson I long have learned but forget again and again. The burden of me is heavy -- too heavy to bear. But the yoke of Jesus is light, for He bears it with me.
For God is a God who bears. The Son of God bore our flesh, he bore the cross, he bore our sins, thus making atonement for us. In the same way his followers are also called upon to bear, and that is precisely what it means to be a Christian. Just as Christ maintained his communion with the Father by his endurance, so his followers are to maintain their communion with Christ by their endurance. We can of course shake off the burden which is laid upon us, but only find that we have a still heavier burden to carry -- a yoke of our own choosing, the yoke of our self. But Jesus invites all who travail and are heavy laden to throw off their own yoke and take his yoke upon them -- and his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. The yoke and the burden of Christ are his cross. To go one's wa…

The Lorica of St. Patrick

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In honor of St. Patrick's day, I thought would share his Breastplate Prayer, also known as his Lorica. Though St. Patrick's day is typically associated with good luck, the man himself put his faith in Someone much stronger.
The Lorica of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through th…

N.T. Wright's 'The Lord and His Prayer'

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My church is going through N.T. Wright's The Lord and His Prayer over the season of Lent. I started it this afternoon, and already the book has been a blessing to me. For today's post, I thought I would share a passage from the end of the chapter titled "Our Father in Heaven."
At the end of John's gospel, Jesus says to his followers: As the Father sent me, so I send you (John 20.21). We live between Advent and Advent; between the first great Advent, the coming of the Son into the world, and the second Advent, when he shall come again in power and glory to judge the living and the dead. That's why Advent is sometimes quite confusing, preparing for the birth of Jesus and at the same time preparing for the time when God makes all things new, when the whole cosmos has it's exodus from slavery. That apparent confusion, that overlap of the first and second Advents, is actually what Christianity is all about: celebrating the decisive victory of God, in Jesus Chri…

Gluttony and the American Church: How would Jesus eat?

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Historically, the season of Lent has been a time of reflection. That’s just what I was prompted to do after reading and discussing an article posted by a favorite social networking site.
In his Dallas Observer article How would Jesus Eat?, Dallas Theological Seminary graduate student Jared Binder calls out one of the American church’s pet sins: gluttony. There’s this thing in the Bible called gluttony. The Bible says it’s a sin. But we don’t like to talk about that particular sin. We prefer to point a pudgy finger at others and decry the evils of drugs and alcohol, pornography, abortion and homosexuality. Compared to those, gluttony is just a little sin. … This “little” sin of gluttony is killing people by the hundreds of thousands every year. Obesity has now surpassed smoking as the No. 1 health threat in America. It can be directly linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type II Diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea, heart disease and many forms of cancer. The whole of Binder’s…

Hiding from Myself

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“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)This afternoon, I read a chapter in Bonhoeffer's  The Cost of Discipleship, title…

Waiting with Japan

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:19-25 ESV)Yesterday, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The quakes, aftershocks and tsunami waves have wreaked havoc on the country, destroying cities and causing wide-spread power outage. CNN reported the de…

Walk on, to yonder shining light

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The Man ... looking upon Evangelist very carefully; said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide Field, Do you see yonder Wicket-gate? The Man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining light? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt though see the Gate; ~ John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's ProgressSeveral days ago, I woke up before daylight. I looked at the clock, which told me there was about another hour before sunrise. Yet, I could hear birds singing. They could not see that it was morning, but they knew it was coming. So, they sang.

I was rather tired, so maybe that is why I was so struck by the faith of the singing birds.

Yesterday, I began reading John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. The story begins with a man struggling under the burden of his sin. He is told to go to a certain gate, which he can not see. Rather, he must walk towards a light th…

More than a Greeting: The Lord be with you

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And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” (Ruth 2:4 ESV) Tonight I read a chapter of Eric Bolger's Journey into Intercession. The chapter (Day 16 of The Old Testament Journey) references Eli's blessing of Elkanah and Hannah in 1 Samuel 2, where the priest says to them "May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD."

This simple blessing was a prayer, an intercession of Eli to God on behalf of these people. And God heard, answering Eli's request by blessing Elkanah and Hannah with three more sons and two daughters.

Bolger reflects on what the passage teaches Christians today, all of whom are called to be priests, as Eli was.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous lig…

Ash Wednesday: I am dust

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Candles fluttered softly, illuminating the sanctuary that was only dimly lit by artificial lighting. The elements of the Eucharist waited on the alter, along with two white porcelain bowls of ash.

All was quite when I walked in, but soon acoustic music softened the hushed air. I sat quietly, watching the pews slowly fill. Most faces I recognized. Several I did not -- but that is typical for special services.

Soon we were called to worship, first with song and then with scripture reading.
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
 (Joel 2:12-13 ESV)Mourning. That is the heart of the Lenten season -- mourning for our sin.

We were called forward, and one by one we walked to the front of the sanctuary, where we knelt while one of our leaders dipped his thumb in a bowl of ashes -- an ancient symbol of mourning -- and drew a cross on our foreheads.

Later, we knelt as a congreg…