Saturday, November 29, 2008

See It, Try It!

In her Exchange article "Seeing Children" Deb Curtis told this story...
"A few years ago when I was teaching preschool I discovered that I could learn to see the children’s perspectives in very powerful ways if I observed them closely and then tried out what they were doing. I had been frustrated with a group of boys who had taken to zooming the small cars off of block ramps that they built. They would fling the cars across the tilted ramps, watching them fly through the air, hitting the ceiling, the windows, and sometimes people. I spent a lot of time trying to stop their behavior, but to no avail.

"After the boys left one day, my co-teacher and I decided to try out the cars and ramps ourselves. Much to our surprise we had a blast! We experienced the excitement and challenge as we built the ramps and zoomed the cars. With this new perspective, we approached the children’s work in a very different way. We offered the boys challenges to build their ramps more carefully and control the speed more accurately. They took up our suggestions and the activity became a focused, complex learning experience for all. Since then, trying out what they are doing has become a regular practice for me to see children more clearly."

Friday, November 21, 2008

This Blessed Book!

"When you come to this Blessed Book, the great point is to come with a deep consciousness of your ignorance, seeking on your knees the help of God, that by his Spirit he may graciously instruct you.

If you do not understand some portions, do not be discouraged, but come again and again to God, and he will guide you little by little, and further instruct you in the knowledge of his will.

And with an increasing knowledge of God obtained in a prayerful, humble way, you will receive, not something that simply fills the head, but something that exercises the heart, and cheers and comforts and strengthens you inner man."
George Muller
1805 - 1898

George Muller was a 19th century evangelist and coordinator of orphanages in Bristol, England. He lived an incredible life of faith and ministry to the poor. If you are interested in learning more about him, I recommend his autobiography or, for an easier read, George Muller: Man of Faith and Miracles.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shoulders of Giants

This week, I am thankful for the great men and women who have lived before me, who have demonstrated amazing faith and wisdom, and have struggled through deep truths. I am who I am because I can stand on the shoulders of these giants.

As protestants we sometimes forget the very challenging work of the church fathers to "rightly handle the word of truth." Throughout our history as the body of Christ, there have been questions about who we are and who God revealed himself to be. These courageous men and women struggled through these questions and have established the truths of the Christian church.

As one example, imagine how very differently we would view ourselves if the gnostic beliefs had not been checked in the early church. We would believe that the physical world was evil and worthless, and only the spirit mattered. While we do hold to the importance of the new life we have in the spirit, we can also enjoy the beauty of the physical world -- the ocean, the sunset, the hugs of our children -- as part of God's good gifts to us.

So today I echo the statement of Sir Isaac Newton, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Join me in being thankful this week. Every Thursday you can enter your Living in Thanksgiving post at Blue Castle.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hope in God!

How, O Lord, can I have hope when this world is such an insecure place?
Natural calamities destroy.
Economic uncertainties abound.
Human beings kill

~ I AM the light of the world. ~

What, O God, is reliable? What is secure?
Not people.
Not institutions.
Not governments.

~ I AM the way, the truth, and the life. ~

I fear, Lord, that evil will win out in the end.
I worry that my efforts will be for nothing.
I feel overwhelmed by powers beyond my control.

~ I AM the resurrection and the life. ~

You alone, O Lord, are my hope. You alone are my safety. You alone are my strength. May I -- even with my fears and anxieties, my insecurities and uncertainties -- swing like a needle to the pole star of the Spirit.
Richard J. Foster
Prayers from the Heart

Sunday, November 16, 2008

All Things Handmade

Etsy: Your place to buy and sell all things handmade.

This is a great web site to find (and sell) beautiful, handmade creations. I have not yet spent money here, but I love browsing. I am not very creative, and would probably never have anything to sell, but I have heard it is easy to set up your own store. Check it out!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When Green isn't Black and White!

I have been thinking a lot about "going green" lately, and what small changes I can make in my family that will have less of a negative impact on the environment. However, I have found many times when green just isn't black and white.

Here are a two examples:

1. Energy vs. Disposal -- Styrofoam cups
Styrofoam is not recyclable (as far as I have found) so it has to be disposed of somewhere. On the other hand, plastic cups are most of the time recyclable, and paper cups are normally biodegradable; they are both much heavier than Styrofoam, however, and consume more gasoline to move them to their distribution center. So, if forced to choose, which one is really "greener"?

2. Water vs. Paper & Disposal -- cloth napkins
Paper napkins are disposable and biodegradable; they create waste, and they use our tree resources. Cloth Napkins, however, require regular washing, using valuable water, and creating waterborne waste. So which one is "greener"? What if you use paper napkins that are made from recycled paper?

I know these debates don't have black and white answers. Most of the time they answer is dependent on local conditions. In the U.S. we have great water treatment plants, and plenty of fresh water, so we don't tend to worry about using water. Either way, though, there is a negative impact on our environment.

What do you think? What are some areas where you have had to try to choose the "greener" of several options?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thankful for Community!

A friend started a new Thursday theme on her blog - Living in Thanksgiving! Check it out at Blue Castle. You can also share what you are thankful for and add it to the blog roll.

I know I missed Thursday, but I decided that I really needed to be thankful today. This has been a long week. I have two sick kids, a sick hubby, and no time to acknowledge that I, too, feel sick. So, this is the perfect time to stop complaining and give thanks.

This week, I am thankful for the community I live in. We are all brought together by the calling of God to attend (or support a spouse attending) Princeton Theological Seminary. I have a group of friends here who support me, pray for me, listen to me, and love me, in spite of it all. At this crazy time in life, God has placed us right were we need to be!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

John 4 - Water, Worship and Harvest

"...whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14

In chapter four, John introduces the theme of living water. We see the symbolism of water in the miracle at the Cana wedding; and it is mentioned in passing in Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus. But here Jesus directly offers the living water. And in his profound conversation with the woman from Samaria, he declares himself to be the Messiah, I AM (v.26)

"...the hour is ... now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him." John 4:23

What an incredible statement! Everything has changed! The time has now come when the only acceptable act of worship is total orientation of my life and action toward the Father.

And now we call God our Father, Abba Father. Although this concept was introduced in Isaiah (the Everlasting Father), it is not until Jesus comes into our world and shows us who God is do we have the right to become children of God.

"...lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." John 4:35

Jesus is trying to explain the urgency of his task here on earth. His food, that on which he relies for sustenance, is to do God's will and accomplish his work (v. 34). He challenges his disciples (and us) to take that same view of our lives.

I can just picture Jesus sitting at the well trying to teach this lesson to his disciples. He looks in the distance toward the city and sees the group of people that the woman from the well has gathered. He motions for his disciples to turn and look at the crowd, and he tells them, "These are the fields, ready to be harvested ... I am now sending you to reap."

Reborn and Unafraid!

Lord of the Flood, wash us with your Spirit that we may be your ark of life, your peace in the sea of violence.
Water is life; water cleans; water kills.
Frightened, we are tempted to make a permanent home on the ark.
But you force us to seek dry ground.
We can do so only because you have taught us to cling to our baptisms, where we are drowned and reborn by the water and fire of your Spirit.
So reborn, make us unafraid.
Prayers Plainly Spoken
Stanley Hauerwas.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Prayer and Hope

To pray means to open your hands before God. It means slowly relaxing the tension which squeezes your hands together and accepting your existence with an increasing readiness, not as a possession to defend, but as a gift to receive.

Above all, prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God's promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world.

In prayer, you encounter God not only in the small voice and the soft breeze, but also in the midst of the turmoil of the world, in the distress and joy of your neighbor, and in the loneliness of your own heart.
The Only Necessary Thing
by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

John 3 - New Life

This is how God loved the world, he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
John chapter three is an incredible introduction to the new life we have in Christ. This is a very familiar passage of scripture. I was challenged to read it with fresh eyes, without reading all my opinions into it.

We have become so use to the term "born again" and "be saved". They have become very strong, polarizing terms in our current culture. Take a step back and see what the text actually says; think about what this must have meant to the first century church.

Jesus is challenging the idea of the Kingdom of God being a physical realization for the Jews. Instead, you must be "born from above" to enter the kingdom; you must be born "of water and the Spirit".

In this chapter, we also begin to see the idea of God's mercy and love overcoming the condemnation and judgment sometimes associated with the holiness of God. John has yet to stress the forgiveness and restoration of the new life, but he makes it very clear that God's purpose is to save, not condemn.

This is the first time John describes the new life as being "saved". This is placed in the context of a story of salvation in the old testament - Numbers 21:4-9. The Israelites are dying from snake bites. God instructs Moses to place a golden snake on a high pole in the middle of camp. Everyone who looks at the gold snake will live. What a strong picture of salvation!

I enjoyed the challenge of rereading this chapter with a fresh perspective and considering how the ideas of birth and new life were understood by the original readers.

The Holiness of Everyday Tasks

If all of life is truly sacred, God, then help me see the holiness of the everyday tasks of my life:
cleaning house and
laughing with friends and
eating good food and
sleeping through the night.
Prayers from the Heart
Richard J. Foster

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Reformation Day

On October 31, 1517, Luther posted his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, unknowingly sparking the Protestant Reformation.

His intent was to initiate a debate on the doctrine and practices of indulgences, but this event sparked a controversy that resulted in the excommunication of Luther and his followers in 1520 ... and the Lutheran tradition was born. This eased the later creation of the Reformed and Anabaptist traditions.

Check out the Internet Christian Library ( to read all of Luther's 95 Theses.