Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Ten Cannots

I read these on a friend's blog and thought they were worth repeating. It is an interesting perspective to consider, especially in light of the current politics.
  • You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
  • You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
  • You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
  • You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
  • You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
  • You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.
  • And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.
by Reverend William J. H. Boetcker
The Ten Cannots

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
Turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Prayer in the desert

Prayer is a subject that has been on my mind lately. It is not an easy subject to wrestle with; nor is it easy to admit such a struggle.

Do you ever feel like you are in a desert and your prayers are getting lost in the wind? There have been times in my life when prayer is refreshing and exciting; and there have been times, like now, when prayer is so hard and dry.

In the midst of this dryness, God has been stirring me, moving me back to prayer. I am so thankful that he still calls, still draws, in spite of my neglect and unfaithfulness. But I feel so lost in knowing how to get back to the joy, that spring of life overflowing.

I have no answers today, but I know that where the Spirit draws, he will also teach. So, I am coming back to the position of humility, sitting eagerly at his feet.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Make Us Like Him

I wanted to share this prayer that I have been pondering and praying during my study of John. It is from Prayers Plainly Spoken by Stanley Hauerwas. This was a book my husband gave to his father before he passed away a few years ago. It has some beautiful, thoughtful prayers.

Spirit of Truth, direct our attention to the life of Jesus so that we may see what you would have us be.

Make us, like him, teachers of your good law.
Make us, like him, performers of miraculous cures.
Make us, like him, proclaimers of your kingdom.
Make us, like him, loving of the poor, the outcast, children.
Make us, like him, silent when the world tempts us to respond in the world's terms.
Make us, like him, ready to suffer.

We know we cannot be like Jesus except as Jesus was unlike us, being your Son. Make us cherish that unlikeness, that we may grow into the likeness made possible by Jesus' resurrection. Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clothing Exchange

My "problem area" for the week is all our clothing. It is time to pack up all the summer clothes and pull out the winter clothes. For the kids, this process includes pulling out everything that is too small and determining what we have (and need) for the coming season.

This comes just in time for our community's clothing exchange. Twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring, there is a big clothing exchange for everyone in the Seminary. People donate their wearable, used clothing and pick up 'new' clothes donated by others. I always find great children's clothes.

They start accepting donations today, so I will be spending this evening and tomorrow sorting, washing and clearing out clothes.

Organizing for Toddlers

There are so many great things I want to do with my children, but we are held back by a lack of planning and organization. This is the next big area I am tackling in my journey toward living a prepared life.

I have recently discovered a series of books by Trish Kuffner that are full of creative activities for kids, using things I have around my home.

I LOVE these books. You really need to check them out.

The Toddler's Busy Book - This book has great ideas for activities to do with your one-and-a-half to three year old that stimulate creativity and learning, not to mention stave off boredom on long rainy days.

If you have older kids, she has also published The Preschooler's Busy Book geared toward three to six year olds.

Most of this book is still too advanced for my not-quite-three-year-old, but I enjoyed reading it for additional
inspiration and a picture of the soon-emerging skills to watch for in my children.

For children six to ten there is The Children's Busy Book. I haven't read this one at all.

Another great book is the The Wiggle & Giggle Busy Book.

I have only read a few sections in this book so far, but I am finding great games to play with my kids.

These ideas have really helped on rainy days, when we can't get outside to run around.

All of her books have large "Rainy Days" sections to help with those 'stir-crazy' days.

I have been so inspired by these books. There is a great section in the beginning of each book that lays out how to organize your home to meet your child's changing needs.

You will have to stay tuned to find out how well I am able to implement these great new ideas into my daily life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Food Processor!

I bought a cheap, little food processor this week. I have never had one before. Growing up we had one that we used for things like grating zucchini for bread and making pizza dough. Overall, I am little ignorant of all I can do with this new gadget.

So, I am appealing to all you food processor users out there. What do you use your processor for most frequently? What tasks has it simplified for you?

Friday, October 17, 2008

John 2 - Wine & Whip

John 2 contains the story of Jesus attending the wedding in Cana and whipping the money changers in the temple. These stories show such a contrast in the attitude and demeanor of Jesus.

John 2:1-12 | As I read the water-into-wine story again, there was a nagging question in the back of my mind. Why was this story included in the book of John? He only recorded seven miracles in his entire book -- why was this one of them?

I don't have a firm, authoritative answer, but I enjoyed the discussion at Bible study. Here were some of the lessons we found in this story.
  • It shows the authority of Jesus as Lord over nature
  • It revealed the confidence of his mother
  • It demonstrated Jesus involvement and care in "earthly" things
  • It uses the strong symbolic elements of WATER (baptism , living water) and WINE (last supper, blood of Christ, wedding banquet)
  • It shows an abundance of wine, just as we have received an abundance of grace (John 1:16)
  • The miracle manifested the glory of Jesus, and his disciples believed in him.

John 2:13-25 | The second half of this chapter tells the story of Jesus cleaning out the temple. I have often puzzled over this story and how it relates to church-life today.

At first read, this story is about the zeal of Jesus and his authority. And about his disciples' future understanding of Jesus' words and Scripture. But does it also warn us about God's attitude to commercialism in his house?

The money-changers and sellers were providing a vital role for the worshipers who were arriving in Jerusalem. Many people had traveled quite far to worship at the temple for Passover. They needed to exchange their currency for the local currency. They also needed to purchase their sacrifices at the temple instead of having to carry them on their journey.

So, what was the source of Jesus' anger? Why did he take this action? Was it because they were doing this on the temple grounds, instead of outside somewhere? Was it because these money-changes and sellers were taking advantage of the people and charging exorbitant fees?

I often ponder these questions when I encounter a church with a bookstore on the premise. It is a good function of the church to provide its people with resources for discipleship and the Christian life, but ... ?

Or what about the church that holds a "garage" sale in their building to raise money for a mission trip? It provides the community with access to inexpensive goods and earns money for missions, but ... ?

What do you think? I have no real answer. But what I do know is that Jesus demonstrates the zeal God has for his house, his church. We are called to live with that same zeal -- not just for some building, but for his people, the church.
Check out the previous post in this series:
John 1 - The Word became Flesh

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is my home prepared?

I have been pondering what it means for me to be prepared in my home. It mostly comes down to organization and discipline.

I use to be more organized, back when life was simpler, before kids. The last three years have been a slow surrender to the forces of entropy. Now I have to expend great amounts of energy to get back to where I was. But I must, for the sake of my family and myself.

So, my conviction to be more prepared, to be in a position to be used by God, begins with a few basic rules. (I'm almost too embarrassed to admit the level of chaos in which we now live, but confession is good for the soul, right?)
  1. No dirty dishes left on the counter or in the sink over night.
  2. The kitchen table, the bookshelves and the desk need to remain clear of clutter.
  3. I need to tackle at least one "problem area" each week -- "problem areas" include, but are definitely not limited to, all the closets, my bedroom, the play area, the piles of crafts and games.
I have no desire to be legalistic about this, and there are always exceptions, but these rules really are about finding freedom not bondage.

So far, this has been a good week. The rules have lowered my stress around dinner time (I don't have to do dishes before I have enough counter space to cook and I don't have to rush around clearing the table before we can eat). We have also had the opportunity to invite friends over, without needing three-days-warning to get the house picked up.

My problem area for the week was the hall / linen closet. It was a huge pile of stuff that we no longer used. I also found several toiletry items that I had bought and lost (toothpaste, shampoo, etc). It took several afternoons (with only about 15 minutes available each day) to get it done; it sure looks good!

Now I just have to apply some of the discipline I was talking about to keep it up!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

John 1 - The Word became Flesh

John chapter one is a beautiful, incredible and very concise introduction to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Remember John's purpose for writing this book is that we may believe.
"... these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31 (NIV)
With this in the front of our minds, we look at the first chapter of John. He starts by introducing Jesus, clearly telling us who he is -- God himself; then he provides the eye-witness testimony of John the baptist and the disciples to confirm this identity, so that we may believe and have life.

So, who does John say that Jesus is?
  • 1:1 - Word - the one through whom God has always expressed himself
  • 1:1 - God - in the beginning, with God, is God
  • 1:2 - Creator - all things were made through him
  • 1:4 - Life - revealed God in the unique gift of life that transformed a barren universe
  • 1:4 - Light - enlightens everyone
  • 1:14 - Flesh - human, God with us to redeem us
  • 1:29 - Lamb - the sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world
  • 1:41 - Messiah - the Christ, the one anointed by God
  • 1:12 - he gave the right and ability to become God's children
  • 1:14, 17 - he is full of grace and truth
  • 1:16 - we have received grace upon grace from his fullness
  • 1:18 - he has revealed God to us, made him known
These descriptions speak for themselves, and don't need me to expound. However, I do want to share a few points that struck me.

Word / Logos - This term was commonly used in Greek philosophy. In reference to Jesus, it is unique to John, used only in this gospel, in 1 John 1:1, 4 and in the book of Revelation 19:13 - his name is Word of God, (You can debate amongst yourselves whether Revelation was really written by John).

'Logos' means so much more than it that it does when translated 'word' in the English language. It contains the expression of a thought, not merely the name of an object. It embodies a concept or an idea. In the Old Testament, the Word of the Lord is the revealed will of God and the sum of God's utterances.

But John takes it a step further and tells us that Jesus himself is the Word, the will of God, the revelation of God, all that God has said and ever needs to say.

I am looking forward to the unfolding of this description of Jesus that John has given in chapter one. As we proceed through this book, we will see the continued revelation of who Jesus is and what his life (and death) means for us -- that we may believe and have life.

Check out the next post in this series: John 2 - Wine & Whip
Or the previous post : Introduction to John

How prepared are you?

I have recently been reminded (and convicted) about an aphorism used constantly by the head of the engineering department back in college -- "God uses prepared people!"

There have been so many opportunities that I have missed lately because of my lack of readiness; opportunities to reach out to others, to share, to encourage, to build relationships, to minister; opportunities for my children, for my husband, for my friends. God is challenging me to live a prepared life.

This is a huge task, and will probably be a continuing theme in my posts for a while. It includes so many areas of life: spiritually, physically, mentally, financially. The area weighing heaviest on my mind right now is preparation in my home (can anyone say "organization"?).

So, I am pondering this life goal and considering the baby steps I can take today, tomorrow, this week, to live in obedience, to be prepared.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Meal Plan?!?

So, I have been reading about meal plans lately. There are some enthusiastic bloggers who have had great success with this. Some people do a plan each week, some prefer a monthly plan. I have attempted meal plans in the past, and have not been very successful, but the it looks like it is time to try again -- to save money and especially to lower the stress around dinner time.

I am debating between a monthly or weekly plan. Should I just jump off the deep end and tackle the entire month at once? I am going to try one week at a time for a month. Does anyone have some tips for getting started? How do I avoid the pitfalls that have foiled my plans in the past?

Check back in a few weeks to see how it goes!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Book of John - Introduction

My ladies group is studying the gospel of John this year. This seemed like the perfect topic and opportunity to start my new blog.

We are using Kay Arthur's book, the The God Who Know You and Cares, an inductive study of the book of John (check out my last blog post for more about the inductive study style). So far, I have been disappointed with the book. It is not as thoughtful as some of them -- the questions and comments don't seem nearly as thought provoking. However, it does help provide structure to our study.

Here is the brief introduction to the book of John that I shared on our first night in this new study.

John explicitly states his purpose for writing this book in John 20:30-31. Knowing his reason for writing this book can help us understand this scripture better.
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
John 20:30-31 (NIV)

We will see this theme repeated throughout the book of John: Jesus did this sign, and the disciples believed. John's entire book is focused around giving us the proof that we need to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

John is a deeply theological book, focusing on the diety of Christ and the meaning of faith in him. The early church was heavely dependent of this book for much of its theology. John is always careful to interpret what he is reporting with key theological terms.

He introduces key theological term -- know, world, Word, glory -- and uses them again and again. The biggest key word in John is belief / faith. He uses this term 98 times in his gospel. A careful study of these terms can give us a clear understanding of basic New Testament revelation.

John teaches his lessons primarily through contrast -- life & death, light & darkness, belief & unbelief, love & hate, etc. As we read through this book, we will see these contrasts and this teaching method used repeatedly.

John 1:1-5 reminds us of our primary focus as we study the life of Christ as recorded by John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (ESV)
Jesus is the Word of God, God himself, the one through whom God has always chosen to express himself.

Check out the next post in this series: John 1

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Inductive Bible Study

A few years ago, a friend and I started a ladies group to study scripture together. We decided to spend our time doing an inductive style study of various books of the Bible.

I first encountered this type of Bible study in our church in Tennessee, Nashville First Church of the Nazarene. Our pastor taught a Wednesday night series on how to study you Bible. His approach was very much an inductive style of study.

So, what is the inductive style of study? Basically it is using the Bible itself as the primary source of information about the Bible. It is a disciplined way of slowing down and reading the text for what it actually says, not what we have heard in a sermon, or what we assume it says. It takes some serious practice in order to not read our own opinions and assumptions into scripture, especially if you are very familiar with a passage.

A great guide for this style is Kay Arthur's book, How to Study Your Bible. We have used several of her books in our study group, including 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3 John; Colossians and this year we are doing the gospel of John. This is not an endorsement of Kay Arthur -- sometimes I disagree with her conclusions and am not inspired by her questions -- but the books bring important structure to our group.

Here is the basic approach to my new style of Bible study:
  1. Read the text (an entire book or letter) in one sitting, normally in a translation I am not as familiar with, trying to read it through the eyes of the original recipients.
  2. Re-read the text, normally a smaller portion like a chapter, and make observations -- who, what, when, where and how -- writing down any unanswered questions or interesting points.
  3. Re-read the smaller portion of the text again, marking key words and main characters in the book, taking notes on what I learn from these observations.
  4. After this groundwork, I begin cross referencing other passages for answers to any remaining questions.
  5. Then I approach commentaries, or other sources of information to bring additional understanding.
  6. Of coarse, through all this, my prayer is to hear what God wants to speak into my life.
I have found it to be very refreshing to study through an entire book, and not study topically (not that this doesn't also have value). And it is a great way to become thoroughly familiar with scripture, so you can better see the big picture when you are studying a topic or person.

As I said, our group is studying the gospel of John this year. I will be doing a series of posts as we proceed through this book.

Have any of you tried an inductive study of Scripture? Or do you have a different style of study that you like? I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My new blog...

I set up this blog to provide a place to express the thoughts and experiences that shape my life. I don't consider myself to be a very deep or contemplative person, but I would like to be more so. This blog will hopefully also encourage me to apply a little more discipline to my ponderings.

With that being said, I also want to use this as a outlet for my simple ideas as well, like mothering tips, books I like and more.

So, welcome to my new blog about the search of a busy mother for a more contemplative life.