Sunday, January 31, 2010

1 Chronicles 4:1-23, Genesis 46:13, 1 Chronicles 7:1-5, Genesis 46:14-18, 1 Chronicles 7:30-40, Genesis 46:19-25, 1 Chronicles 7:6-12, Genesis 46:26-47:12

The Clans of Judah

One of his descendents was Jabez ... meaning 'I gave birth to him in pain.'  I am so glad we use different techniques for naming children in our current society.  Jabez redeemed himself by praying,

4:10 "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.

Hmmm ... the Prayer of Jabez ... the book from 2000. The trend of that year.

1 Chronicles 7:1-5 lists the number of fighting men for the clans.  145,600 according to this passage - from 3 families.  WOW.

finally - Jacob/Israel is reunited with his son whom he thought was dead.  What an amazing moment - to lay eyes and hands on a child you thought you would never see again.  A child you have mourned over for years.  A child who was your heart. Your hope.  Now to discover he is alive and thriving.  Oh the smiles. Oh the tears. Oh the hugs and pats and trying to soak in the precious face of your son...

Joseph gets them in with Pharaoh who gives them the 'choicest' land, asks them to keep his own livestock and basically offers them his protection.  Such rewards for dumping your brother in a hole.  Proves that God will take something intended for evil and make it good.


Know God - Recap

A recap of this study ... or what I learned at least ...

God knows we are a VERY GOOD creation - if he does say so himself.
He desires intimacy with us. Nothing between us. No divides. No barriers.
God continues to bless us, despite ourselves.
God does speak - often not using words.
God wants us to wrestle with him, not against him.
God wants us to do the impossible - with Him.
God wants people to see his power.
God can not be tamed.
God sometimes speaks to us quietly, in not so obvious ways
God is crazy - but in an amazingly good way.
God is powerful, wild and impossibly good.
God is persistent in rescuing us.
God is passionate about us.
God is hope.
God is Holy.
God is jealous.
God is intentionally mysterious.
God is love.  wild, amazing, reckless, unashamed, LOVE!!
God is!!!

This past month has been a struggle for me. Wrestling, fighting, grieving. Getting to Know god on a deeper level.  I wouldn't trade the sleepless nights or the many tears for anything.  I thought I knew God.  Really knew God.  I could spout off the verses, platitudes, and basically talk the good christian talk.  How wrong I was. There was/is a huge disconnect between my head and my heart.  This gap has decreased a little.  I feel like I know God better, but have also realized that there is still so much more I do not know.  And I want to know.  I want to know God so intimately that I don't have the head/heart disconnect.   Basically, this song by SonicFlood says what I am thinking/feeling:
In the secret
In the quiet place
In the stillness You are there
In the secret
In the quiet hour I wait only for You
Cause, I want to know You more

I want to know You
I want to hear Your voice
I want to know You more
I want to touch You
I want to see Your face
I want to know You more

I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pressing onward
Pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
Cause, I want to know You more.

Thank you Pastor for sharing this study.  For helping me through this part of my journey - as difficult as it has been.  For listening, for writing this study and challenging us, for answering my sometimes off the wall questions.  Thank you for helping us to "Know God."

And heavenly Father - Thank you for letting us glimpse your majesty and power, awe and wonder, love and care.  We are no better than dumb sheep most of the time, but you love us anyway... Amazing love, how can it be?  We can never love you enough...


Know God - Day 31

You made it to the Finish Line...

This is it. The end of the challenge.  How'd ya do?  Oh but wait - it's not done yet!  Pastor equates the old testament as the appetizer and the new testament as the feast - the main course AND dessert!  (but if you know me, you know that often I will only order a few appetizers and skip the main course ... don't do that now!)

The New Testament is Christmas and Easter. Forgiveness, hope and resurrection. The fulfillment of prophesies. Jesus himself!!

But Pastor encourages us to KEEP READING!!!!

It takes two weeks to form a new habit (I've always hear 21 days) But we've gained momentum and created new habits/routines these past 4 weeks.  Here is a way to keep your faith and journey going... [one day Pastor will have a New Testament version of this study. - or so he has]

Turn to the New Testament and read a chapter a day.  This reading will be on your won,,,but you can handle it. :-)  Here are some tips from Pastor:
Ask the same questions: 'What does God say?' and 'What, therefore, is God saying to me?'
Make a plan - to keep you accountable - start with the gospels. It's easy - when Jesus speaks (or it is in red) then God is speaking.
Get a good study bible.  It will help focus your reading an help answer your questions (unless you're like me and the questions create more questions in an almost never ending cycle of wonder.)

A Verse a Day...
Pastor mentions daily devotions. A quick and tasty snack. Short, pointed and daily. Our own daily reading and study will be the feast.  (when he does - I'll try to post here as well.)

You don't have to know everything.
You just need a hunger - and a thirst.

The connection between old and new testaments...

People describe the God of the Old Testament as mean, cruel, judgmental.  I've called him unforgiving, vengeful, mean-spirited, and wondered many times during the study why he didn't just give up over on us and call it quits.  Pastor's impression of God in the Old Testament is that he is patient!  Humans are very thick-headed - and it is shown throughout the entire old testament.  How many times were the people given 2, 3, 4 chances to make things right with God. To obey and follow his will.  The entire Old Testament also shows that God had a plan from the get go.

His plan from the very beginning was to send his Son.  He knew (and still knows) several things about humans:

  1. If he created humans, he would love them. God IS love! It's just who he is.  
  2. If he created humans, they would rebel and sin.  We aren't God, we are imperfect.)
  3. Therefore, God in his love would have to redeem himself.  due to our innate humanness, we ill always fall back into sin.
  4. This redemption would cost God personally, and he knew the cost - blood. death.
  5. To pay this debt, he would send his Son.  

WHY are BLOOD and DEATH the proper payment for sin?

In the old testament, sacrifices were made by killing choice animals and letting the blood pour onto the altar.  If God lets us, his wayward bride, live then his holiness, justice and purity are a fraud.  If he lets us die, his loving heart is crushed.  A penalty must be paid, but God's love can't let us go.  So he opts to have his heart crushed by sending his Son. His only Son. To take our sin. our penalty. our death. And his heart is crushed.

After losing a son myself and hearing a story about another mother who lost a son as well.  I am at the place where I can truly say and believe the words she expressed, "I can't believe how much God loves us.  Now I know how much it hurts to lose a son. How could he do that voluntarily for us?"  I have struggled much the past month with the death of my own son 6 years ago.  I have asked why, ranted, yelled, questioned.  But now I know that God doesn't always answer the why's...sometimes there is no real answer.  And I know that his heart was crushed when his son died just like mine was.  The fact that He loved us so much to voluntarily sacrifice his son is mind boggling.  It shows how selfless and loving he truly is.

What a magnificent love!!!

So... IF THERE WERE GENERATIONS OF SIN .... AND God was going to send his Son anyway ... why did he wait so long to send the Redeemer??????

Pastor's answer, "He had to eliminate all of our excuses!"  for example (and I know I am guilty of asking these very same questions and I have been in church my entire life!)

  • How come God didn't just make everything perfect? -- God says, "I did. The Garden of Eden.  And they still managed to find a way to rebel.
  • How come God didn't make everything like one big happy family? -- God says, "I did!  but Cain still killed Abel in the first family."
  • How come God doesn't just start all over again? -- God says, "I did! But even the most righteous man in the world couldn't get off the boat, stay sober and not humiliate his family."
  • How come God doesn't choose one group of people and work with them so closely that they follow his will? -- God says, "I did!  But is didn't work any better for ol' Abe and his descendents then and it doesn't work very well for us and the church now either."
  • How come God doesn't give us a sign?  -- God says, "I did! the people of Israel had 10 signs in a row and an entire sea parted for them.  However, 3 days later they were complaining again. A three measly days and the effects of the signs and wonders had worn off!!"
  • How come God doesn't send kings, prophets, teachers, warnings? -- God says, "I did! but my people ignored them." [an we aren't so different.  we are stubborn, bull-headed, and would likely ignore them still]
  • If people could only learn to work better together. -- God says, "They did! And got into trouble.  When people build things together, like the tower of Babel, they revel in their accomplishments and think they are God."
  • How come God doesn't just give us rules, laws and clear instructions to follow? -- God says, "I did! [can you sense his exasperation with us?]  but my people ignored them for the first thousand years.  Then when they did start following them, they turned them into the legalism of the Pharisees." 

by the way - we do have rules, laws and clear instructions. the bible

He had to get rid of all of our excuses.  We can't do this ourselves. The old testament shows we need a savior.  The new testament delivers.

Now that we Know God a bit better, let us greet the Savior! AMEN!!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Know God - Day 30

Ezra 1, Nehemiah 1, 2, 8

According to pastor, Ezra and Nehemiah are two of the most important and overlooked people in the 'hall of faith.'  They were responsible for much of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and Jewish nation after the exile.

Christians tend to think that they [we] are the chosen ones - like the Jews - but God will use anyone ... even a non-believing foreigner.  God will not work only through us as Christians.  He will use available resources - or create his own.

Have you ever seen God moving in unexpected places?  I am always surprised to see God move.  I know I shouldn't be, but I am.  Must be the skeptic in me.  I know he will use any situation he can. any person he wants.

Pastor then details Nehemiah's road to becoming governor:

  • Started as cupbearer to the king who had a burden on his heart.
  • Mourned and wept for days when he comprehended the condition of his native land
  • then he prayed ... and prayed ... and prayed some more.
  • This prayer aligned Nehemiah with god's wisdom and opened a door with the king, allowing him to rebuild Jerusalem's wall and restore the glory of God's city.
What are we so concerned about that we are weeping and worrying?  What keeps us from praying and/or aligning ourselves more fully with God?

Children in poverty and people with albinism in less than ideal places are a huge burned on my heart - most specifically - children with albinism living in poverty in those countries.  I do pray for them often. I am sponsoring a boy with albinism in Tanzania through Compassion International, I am on the board of directors for NOAH - the national organization for albinism and hypopigmentation, and I volunteer with Love Without Boundaries to help orphans in China.  Some days I wonder if I am 'doing' too much and not 'waiting for God' enough.  

Nehemiah 8:5-6 Ezra opened the book. ... and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Pastor, "That's the power of God's Word and that's the reverence we need to have for it. God is alive and active and good."  

I have been in many churches where you are expected to stand for the reading of scripture, a few where everyone raised hands.  And have never seen anyone bow down with their faces to the ground in a church.  Are we getting too jaded? ...but I digress...

Pastor continues, "When the people stood up, they began the most alive period in Jewish history.  Not peaceful or prosperous.  But they made God, law, and the scriptures the center of their faith.

Pray: "God, center my life around your Word!"  


Genesis 45:1-46:9, 1 Chronicles 5:1-6, Genesis 46:10-12, 1 Chronicles 2:18-55

Joseph had trouble convincing his brothers that he was who he said he was.  Imagine - they sold him into slavery years ago, now he is the 2nd most powerful person in the land.  They are justified in being afraid.  Very afraid.  What will he do to them? Will they see their father again?What if dad found out what they really did?  Oh the guilt!!!

But Joseph was kind and loving and sent the brothers back to jacob with tons of gifts and a message for their father.  Jacob believed them, only after seeing everything sent for him.  45:28 "I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."  What joyous tears he wept!

According to Chronicles, Reuben was the first born, but he goofed and the rights were removed.  Joseph gets the benefits of being first born. It can get rather confusing.


13 hours...

Ahhh...13 straight hours of sleep.  It was wonderful!  And I may even take a nap yet today.   Finally - the sweet peace of sleep.  Thank you for the prayers...please don't stop.  I'd like more than one night of peaceful rest.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Know God - Day 29

Ruth (one of my favorite books of the OT)

Setting: 3 generations before David will rise as king.

  • A family moves from Bethleham to Moab, a foreign country, due to famine
  • Naomi's 2 sons get married, then they die along with her husband
  • Naomi decides to return to Bethleham
  • Ruth, one of Naomi's daughter-in-laws, goes with her
  • They have no way to support themselves.
  • To eat they glean leftovers from Boaz's field - a relative of Naomi.
  • Boaz redeems Ruth by marrying her.
  • Boaz is her 'kinsman redeemer' - a prefiguring of Christ's redeeming his kin, us.
  • Boaz has a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David ... and you know who that is!

Read Ruth 1

In 1:20 Naomi wants to be called "Mara' which means bitter. Nevertheless, Ruth told her, 1:16 'Where you go, I will go ... Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.'

Are all of God's people your people? Who do you have trouble loving?
I have trouble loving people who kill people with albinism because they believe their body parts have magical powers.  Loving people who abuse children or elderly who have no power to protect or speak up against themselves.  I know I need to love them, but it is sooo hard to love evil like that.

setting: dispersed throughout the Middle East, after the Babylonian Exile.

  • Esther is a Jew, but the king marries her unaware of this.
  • Haman works for the king and wants to get rid of the Jews.
  • Mordecai, Esther's cousin, discovers the plot
  • Haman wants Mordecai to die.
  • Mordecai talks Esther into standing up for the Jews despite the risk to her life.
  • Esther shows her true faith and bravery
Read Esther 7

What's the only book in scripture that does not mention God by name?  Yep. Esther.  He isn't speaking directly to us, but he is encouraging us to stand up for our faith and for God's people.  

What do we need to stand up for more in our lives?  Children, elderly - especially those with albinism or other special needs.  My own faith with my family.

  • Job was prosperous and praised God
  • Satan made a wager with God - that if God took his hand off Job then Job would quit worshipping God.
  • God gave Job over to Satan (1:1 Very well, all that Job has is in your power)
  • Satan wiped out Job - his wealth, health, children - gone!
  • by Job 3:1, job was cursing the day he was born.
  • three friends came and insisted he must have committed a horrible sin.
  • Then there is a long discourse on evil.  
  • This goes on until God speaks up and challenges Job.  and Job, who has been prideful is finally humbled.  Pastor summarizes Job 40 and 41 into God asking, "Can you create earth?"  Job replies, 42:1-2 "I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted ... therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me."
  • Job's questions weren't answered ... and yet he ends with hope, faith and trust!!!
  • Job's fortunes were restored to him two-fold.
Read Job 42

Pastor's summary: God says, "I am God; you're not." 
We don't know why God took his hand off Job. Maybe to show satan that he will always lose in the end.  We will never understand it, evil can't be explained, but we want to end these similar ponderings with Job's faith, hope and trust!!

What keeps us most from faith, hope and trust?

My grief. My difficulty seeing God's hand in the pain  My extended family.

Job tells us that God's ways are 'too wonderful for [us].'  Pray that we may be able to see God's wonder even in the midst of life's trials.

Pastor writes...
Wait ... 'keep your chin up when times are hard' is a crummy answer, isn't it? But what we always need is a little perspective. God and wonder are always woven together in this sinful, broken world.  For example, in one family is asking "Why?" as they lament a tragedy and a death.  In the next hospital room, however, the next family is rejoicing at the joy and wonder of birth.  Therefore we cannot say that God and wonder are not present.  It's just in one room, it's veiled.  Behind the veil, however,  God comforts the grieving and raises the dead.  Our problem is that we look from the perspective of earth. Hope comes from the vantage point of heaven.



Someone today called me brave.  I said I wasn't brave, just obedient.  This has been at the edge of my thoughts all day long.  When I think of brave, I think of our service members who willingly risk their lives for us.  Firefighters rushing into burning building to save a stranger. Christians in a communist country standing up for their faith in Christ.  That is brave.

I looked up the definition of brave:

  • adj-having or showing courage, making a fine show, excellent, splendid, willing to face danger, pain or trouble, not afraid, 
  • verb-to face or endure with courage, do defy, dare

Nope. Not me.  I was just stepping out of my comfort zone and and being reluctantly obedient.  Obedient? yes. Brave? not so much.  But thanks for the compliment.


Genesis 42:1-44:34

It's payback time for Josephs brothers...God style!!

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they had no clue it was him.. Benjamin, the youngest stayed home.  Joseph imprisoned one and sent the others away to bring the youngest back.  I am sure Jacob was terrified something tragic would happen. It already had once and he still wasn't over that grieving!!

Joseph was speaking of himself when he said, 42:34"Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land."

Joseph plots to keep Benjamin with him as a slave. The older brothers plead with Joseph for their brother - on behalf of their father.  They don't want to see their father's heart crushed with grief again.


Know God... Believing God...

There are 3 more days in the Know God study.  I have been asking what next and checking into another independent online study.  [one day there will be a NT continuation of KG - at least that's what Pastor said.]  

Then I saw an announcement for a Beth Moore study called 'Believing God' ~ it almost sounds like a natural follow on to Know God.  Except it started last Friday - translation - lots of work done for me this week.  I do not plan on blogging the daily Believing God studies.  And I am praying I actually follow this through to the end.  I have done a few BM studies, correction, I have sat through several BM studies. Watched the videos, listened to the Q&A, just absorbed - not chewed and tried to digest.  I just hope she doesn't get on my nerves too much.  I am as southern as they come.  Quit calling me beloved already.  In doing the 5 days of homework in 1 1/2 (got the book late), that woman is wordy!!! Ok...enough griping.  

Please continue to pray for sleep.  Turned off light at 12:04 last night and woke up at 4:34am...4 1/2 hours is better then 1 or none.  And [I know it is silly, but...]  I am nervous about bible study tomorrow.  I don't know these women.  what if I'm asked to pray *gasp* outloud?  asked personal questions? break down into the ever present tears?  the hostess literally bubbles over with joy.  it is scary. and intimidating.  and maybe I'll bail... (I won't)  I know - buck up.  Any tips to get some sleep???


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Know God - Day 28

Prophesy. What is it?  According to Pastor, it is so much more than prediction.  The prophets generally spoke to their own generations, to warn them.  Now we are going to look at Messianic prophesies.  One thousand years before Jesus.  There are 324 messianic prophesies (approximately) - but we are not going to look at all of them. Just a few...

Isaiah 53
Crucifixion wasn't even invented for 700 years yet this passage describes the pain and suffering of Christ on the cross.  God knew this (obviously), yet he still sent his son. Because he loves us!  Jesus knew what was coming.  Yet he still gave himself for us.

Pastor asks, "With this in mind, do you believe ... do you really believe ... deep down to the core ... in spite of your imperfections ... in God's amazing love for you?

If so, thank him, thank him, thank him!
If not, pray that your heart may be opened to the love and grace of our God."

What is God saying???  With the sheer number of prophecies given, he is saying a lot! Here is a snapshot of a few:
The Child - Isaiah 9:6
The Virgin - Isaiah 7:14
The Genealogy - Matthew 1:1,6 Isaiah 16:5, 11:10  (here is a GREAT song about this)
The City - Micah 5:2
The Region - Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 2:23, 4:13-16,
The Persecution - Matthew 2:16-18, Jeremiah 31:15
The Journey - Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:14-15
The Gentiles - Isaiah 49:6, Matthew 12:17-21
The Healings - Isaiah 35:5-6a
The Release - Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:16-21
The Cornerstone - Psalm 118:22-23, Matthew 21:42
The Betrayal - Zechariah 11:12-13, Matthew 26:14-15, 27:3-10
The Scattering - Zechariah 13:7, Matthew 26:31
The Cross - Psalm 22

God spent a lot of time laying out plans for the future of Christ.  Do you believe he has specific plans for you?  What are you hearing that they are?

Do I believe? yes.  Do I know what they are? I have no idea!  I am on such a strange and winding journey right now that I don't even know what I thought I knew. Ya know?  According to Jeremiah - his plans are for us to have hope and prosper.  the means is a mystery.


Genesis 40:1-41:57

continuing Joseph's story.  He is in prison, but in charge somehow.  The guard recognizes that he has special protections and blessings.

Wel, the king's cupbearer and baker were sent to prison and put under Joseph's care.  These two could easily poison the king they were that close to him.  Joseph, being a rare type of man, noticed that the men were upset. He inquired about it and offered to listen to their dreams. (Isn't that all we want sometimes? someone to listen...)  Joe interpeted teh dreams accurately and even asked the cupbearer 40:14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. However, the cupbearer 40:23 did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.  The cupbearer got what he wanted.  And Joseph had to wait TWO more years for anything to happen!!!

How often do we worry and fret about something, get what we really want and then forget about God and his blessings?

Pharaoh had some interesting dreams. Fat cows, skinny cows, fat grain, skinny grain. The skinny ate the fat.  And none of his esteemed, well cared for advisors could help.  Then the cupbearer remembers Joseph.  Better late than never, eh?

I like Joseph's response: I can't do it, but God will give the answer he desires.  Hmmm...God desires or Pharaoh desires???  Joseph even gave Pharaoh the plan to survive the next few years.  And talked himself into a job...he finally got out of prison...and everyone had to come to him for grain during the famine.  What an amazing change of lifestyle!!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


You know you are tired when you type the same sentence 3 times in three different ways.  Or
You start typing a sentence, apparently doze off, wake up and wonder what you'd just done. ie: I was writing for bible study last night. And then I was reading about sliding Lucy, one of our dogs, down the slide...and typed it.  I know I need more rest.  Maybe I need to find a special place to keep my sleep fuzzy writings.  Some are humerous and some are just weird.  Hmmmm... since my eyes are droopy an it isn't quite midnight, I'm gonna take advantge of the situation ... night all.


Know God - Day 27

Again - another list of scriptures to look for. :-)  To quote Pastor, "the passages are simply some of the most wonderful and evocative verses in all of scripture! In these passages, we may not actually see the words, "God said"; nevertheless, God was clearly speaking through his prophets to Israel, Judah and you and me."  The end questions are the same as yesterday.

Jeremiah 29:11
Isaiah 61:1-2
Micah 6:8
Isaiah 40:31
Isaiah 64:6
Isaiah 55:8
Zechariah 12:10
Isaiah 41:10
Isaiah 55:1
Isaiah 11:6
Isaiah 55:6
Isaiah 48:17
Isaiah 48:17
Jeremiah 1:5
Ezekiel 36:26
Daniel 12:2
Joel 2:28
Joel 2:12-13
Jonah 3:4-5, 10
Malachi 3:8
Nahum 1:2, 7, 3
Zephaniah 1:2; 3:17
Malachi 3:6
Malachi 4:5

Which passage is your favorite? Why?  I am not limiting it to one.

  • Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
  • Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I have known both for ages.  and have songs related to them. One by Waterdeep and the other a praise/worship song from FCA/BSU days gone by - typically sung in a round or echo depending on the group.  And they are truths that we need reminders of often.  that God's plans are amazing and he KNOWS what they are.  And he wants us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.  Like him.  Easier typed/sung than done.

In a personal, devotional sense, which passage challenged you the most personally?

  • Joel 2:12-13 "Even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
  • Malachi 3:8  "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings.
I need to be reminded of the Joel passage.  To give God my entire broken, bruised, shattered heart.  He doesn't mind the tears, the mourning.  And he doesn't cause the calamity.  So important to remember especially now.

Malachi refers to tithing again.  I want to be obedient in this area.  It is not easy, but I feel we can do it!

Which passage do you think sounds the most like God?
  • Isaiah 48:17 This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
This pretty much sums it up for me. Redeemer, Holy One, Lord, God, teacher, leader...

Which passage do you think sounds the least like God?
None really sound the least like God to me. the most contradictory to me are:
  • Zephaniah 1:2 "I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the Lord.
  • Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
How do we need to expand our picture of God based on these revelations from God through the prophets?
God is full of contradictions.  I just need to learn to accept that.

Zephaniah 3:17 brought to mind a song on the radio [not NPR] currently by Laura Story called Mighty to Save
Saviour, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save
Forever, author of Salvation
He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave

Shine Your light and let the whole world see, we're singing
For the glory of the risen King, Jesus
Shine Your light and let the whole world see, we're singing
For the glory of the risen King


Promises of Comfort

Saw not 1, but 2 bluebirds after praying and weeping at the outdoor sanctuary today.


Genesis 37:1-39:23

Joseph.  The kids are learning about him all month in sunday school.  It is truly a story of God taking a potentially grief stricken situation and making something amazing out of it. 

But there was Judah who went out and slept with a prostitute - who turned out to be his daughter in law.  Who ever says the bible is boring, has obviously never read it!!!

Back to Joseph. You have to admire his integrity!!  His master's wife wanted him to sleep with her and he refused.  He stuck to his values despite risking his life.  Where is that integrity today?



It has been 6 years since our son was born-still. 6 years since my life was turned upside down and inside out. I did seek traditional 'talk' therapy after his death. But it didn't help much except to insure I'd get out of bed everyday and continue being a productive member of society. This year for some unexplained reason - it ALL came back to me. I am a Christian, but am sick of the light and fluffy rhetoric. I was angry and wanted answers. I have a gracious pastor who let me rant, cuss, wail, question, doubt, hate, cry and be my messed up self. He was just there. No pat answers. No miracle books. Just there. 

I also started blogging my journey. Being transparent. Lucas was conceived after ttc for a couple of years. My pregnancy was fine. I loved feeling him grew and wiggle and kick. During planned, induced labor, my uterus ruptured. My son died. The emergency c-section was too late. 

In my intense anger I want to throw or hit something. I found a good sized branch and swung it repeatedly at a tree. It felt wonderful to release all that anger in a physical way. 

Right after Luke died, I read every book I could get my hands on as well. Now I realize I was too numb to know what I was doing. 

It is a journey - a winding journey with serene places, rocky places, lonely places and tearful places. But a journey that will make all of us so much stronger in the end.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Know God - Day 26

Pastor jumps around today.  In the print version, he includes the text of the verses.  I am not doing that here.  You have to go look them up...enjoy the sound of the paper, the smell of the ink, or the click of the mouse as you go to one of the many bible resource sites online.  Pastor challenges us to underline these passages in our bibles and see them in their original context to understand them better.

The pattern Pastor is following, as stated in the beginning is to look for, "God said..."

Jeremiah 1:7-9
Jeremiah 1:19
Jeremiah 2:2-5
Jeremiah 2:22
Jeremiah 9:25-26
Jeremiah 31:33
Hosea 1:2
Joel 2:19-20
Jonah 4:1-4
Amos 8:11
Micah 5:10-14
Nahum 3:5
Haggai 1:1-11
Zechariah 1:3
Zechariah 1:16-2:5
Zechariah 2:6
Zechariah 3:7-9
Zechariah 8:17
Malachi 1:6
Malchi 3:10

Which passage is your favorite? Why?  That is a tough question.  I think Zechariah 1:3. In v2, God was telling him he was angry at his forefathers, but basically, he'll give Z another chance.  "return to me and I'll return to you." God is forgiving and will give anyone another chance (how many chances did he give the Israelites???)  How many chances does he give us to return to him??? As many as we need.

In a personal, devotional sense, which passage challenged you the most personally? Malachi 3:10.  "Bring the FULL tithe into my storehouse."  I have been praying, thinking and talking about tithing for about the past week while anticipating my first paycheck from my new job.  Part of this journey is learning to be obedient - even when we'd rather not.  God wants us to be obedient.  The debate I had in my head was, do you tithe on the net or the gross?  Well - according to my (imperfect, often wrong, but still works for me until I am shown otherwise by someone much wiser than I) interpretation, FULL means from all of it.  Not just the part our gov't dips into.  Part of my obedience is to write a check for the tithe first every other week.  Before daycare, taekwando, dance, food, gas, etc.  I have only done this once.  Why aren't we doing this as a family?  Husband handles the finances (I do know where to find everything...)  He doesn't feel we are in a position to tithe off the net.  Or the gross.  But he is supportive of me in this endeavor to be obedient to God.

Which passage is the most like God?  Hagai 1:1-11.  God gave them everything they wanted.  And they squandered it.  So it took it away.  Use it or lose it.  God or the US Military???

Which passage is the least like God? I don't know.  I see God in all these.  If anything, this study is teaching me that God is too massive/impressive/overwhelming to understand. He is capable of turning away from a people, reminding someone just who he is, loveing, expecting obedience, rendering discipline...They are all God.

Pastor writes, "When something doesn't sound like God, that means it's usually time for me to start expanding my understanding of God."  How do we need to expand our picture of God based on these revelations from God through the prophet?


An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken

I don't remember where I first saw this book or heard about it. But I do remember feeling a very strong urge to purchase it. I sat on that feeling for a few weeks until I did purchase the book. And there it sat for over a year - actually almost 2 years.  I was scared to read it. Not ready to read it. Terrified.


It is a memoir of her journey through the loss of her son and subsequent pregnancy.  So, this year. This 6th year. This horrid, painful, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth year...I picked it up.  I didn't want to face this path alone.

I like EM from the start admits to not being a Christian.  "Good!" I thought. "I am not in the mood for the fluffy, happy, everything is wonderful despite a horrible tragedy christian book."  I could relate to her joy at being pregnant, normal first pregnancy jitters and excitement.  Reading to the baby, talking to the baby. Already reorganizing life to baby.  Then baby is gone.

I appreciated her transparency and willingness to share so much with us.  I cried my own grief tears while reading.  It almost gave me permission to grieve.  to miss my sweet luke.  I found myself jealous at her getting pregnant again so easily.  Or even being able to at all.  I felt anger at the nurse who tried to just blow her off.  I was cheering for her when she said that there can never be closure to something like this.

She said things that I wish I could have said.  She said things that I have said.  But we both have a hole in our hearts where our babies should have been.  Just another way I am certain I was not alone.

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Genesis 33:1-35:29, 1 Chronicles 2:12

Jacob met Esau - Esau was so grateful to see his brother!

In ch34, Jacob's daughter was 'defiled' by another tribe. They asked for her to marry one of their sons. Jacob's condition was for all their males to be circumcised. They agreed. However, two of his sons (Dinah's brothers) took advantage of the men still in pain and killed them. Jacob was furious! The brother's thought they were protecting their sister. But it broke the promise Jacob had made with the locals.

God was ever present. He instructed Jacob to flee to Bethel and build an altar. God blessed him and changed Jacob's name to Israel. He was protected.

But Rachel, Jacob's beloved, died in childbirth. Women, still today, in our medically advanced country die in childbirth. Her child lived. She named him Ben-Oni 'son of my trouble' and Jacob renamed him Benjamin 'son of my right hand.' Oh how Jacob must have grieved to lose his beloved.


Waking up to a song in my head

I often have a song running through my head. More often than naught, it is a VeggieTales song or something at least as equally annoying.

However, this morning I woke up with a song in my head. It gently grew in volume through the sleep fog I was trying to hang on to. No. It wasn't planted there by my radio alarm. I very highly doubt that my local NPR station would play this during Morning Edition. And I didn't listen to the cd yesterday or the day before. I believe it is a gentle promise from God. One I need to not forget. One I need to cling to. One that makes me want to fall to my knees before his alter. Take communion and worship him from the bottom of my wounded heart. It is also my constant prayer for today...

So may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Like those little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you 
~Rich Mullins, Peace

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Know God - Day 25

A glimpse of 2 prophets...

Isaiah 6

God asks in v8, "Whom shall I send ... ?"

Isaiah started his ministry by SEEING God.  But only the hem of his garment/the train of his robe - and it filled the temple.  When I was married, I had a cathedral length train...and it was plenty long.  But God's train FILLED the temple.  And that was all that Isaiah saw.  Another example showing that God is great. awesome. holy.  We all need to fall down before him like Isaiah did - worrying about our unclean parts.
What is the picture of God you carry in your head?

My picture of God is always changing and varies with the situation and my mood.  He can be a whisper of wind, a santa claus/grandfatherly figure, a roiling dark cloud...

Pastor passes on a piece of advice he has heard over the years, "If any presents an interpretation of God that makes God smaller, don't believe it!"  How does this change/expand your picture of God? I don't know.  I don't have one steady image of God in my head.  It just confirms what I already see.

Isaiah answered God's question by saying, "Here I am, send me." What do you know in your heart that God is calling you to do, and what is your response to him?  currently - he is calling me to come to him, rely on him, rest in him.  I am trying, but it isn't easy.  I am not used to resting in him or relying on his comfort.  It is a giving up control. releasing my inner self and heart to his care.  Until my heart is healed, I won't be much good being sent out...

Daniel 5:1-9, 17, 24-30
25 "This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN+F25 ARAMAIC "UPARSIN" (THAT IS, "AND PARSIN")+E

Daniel's interpretation for each word:
  • 26 - Mene": God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. **When you hear that God has numbered your days, what's your reaction? Honestly - I don't mind. Pastor writes, "I'm actually beginning to look forward to it. (I never would have guessed that I'd be this weird!) many comments left unsaid here...
  • 27 - Tekel": You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. **Nothing we can do will be enough. We will always be wanting! Pastor writes, "All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23-27). Therefore, before we ever jump to the promise of God's grace, let's spend a moment in confession. A holy god ought to have us bowing way down." A running theme...confess. He knows. He wants to know if we know.
  • 28 - Peres": Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." **What? We don't have kingdoms to divide. However, we do have stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. We need to remember that it is all momentary. How might the hope and glory of eternity shape our days more fully? If we focus on heaven and not on the 'stuff' then we can know more of what God really wants from us. If...
Daniel 10:5-14, 12:1-3
God is showing Daniel that despite the enemy coming ever closer minute by minute, He will keep persisting and fighting for us as well.  In 12:1 God said, "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered."

At That Time... I never realized that the end times were mentioned in the old testament.  We as humans are in big trouble if we don't have faith and trust in God!!

All end-times/second coming/last days prophesies ask two questions:
1. Are you ready?  (one of my least favorite 'canned' christian questions comes to mind - 'If you died today, where would you go?')  Nevermind that. Are you ready? There are no guarantees - remember - only God knows the number of your days.

2. Will you stand firm in your faith when a day of persecution comes?  This may not happen in the end times. This may happen now.  It does happen daily around the world. visit Voice of the Martyrs to learn more.  It is very real!!!  We are called to stand firm in our faith in times of trial.  Daniel did this when thrown in the lion's den.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego did in the firey furnace.  Jesus did on the cross.  Thousnads of people do every day around the world.  

How about you? If persecution came to your life and your family, what would you do?  

A story - when living in Montana in 1993, there was a group of us that met every Friday after a day of fasting to pray and break our fast together.  The four of us were at my house one evening praying.  Suddenly the front door burst open, figures with guns and dark clothing entered. We all dropped to the floor, trying to find cover behind the small coffee table.  One of the guys tried to protect the gal sitting near him.  We were terrified.  The intruders turned out to be friends of ours playing a prank on us.  We are all playing paintball the next day and they had just picked up the gear.  We talked about how scared we all were and our reactions.  And how we would really fare in a country where what we were doing then was illegal.  It was sobering.  And eye opening.  I am a wimp.  I could only survive with the complete and utter grace of God.  

Another story - we have been to China twice to adopt our children.  For both trips, we took bibles with us that never made it home.  They were english/chinese bibles.  On our second trip, we attended an international worship service at our hotel.  There was a police officer positioned outside to check passports to insure that no citizens of China came in to worship.  Our guide asked many questions afterward and I did my best to answer.  Could we have both gotten in trouble? Yes. Did we care? No.  Frankly, never crossed my mind how dangerous that was for several days.  

But am I willing to give up my comfort and freedom here to risk my life daily for Christ somewhere else? not yet...  You?



I grew up knowing The Doxology as:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. 

I found a copy of Luther's Small Catechism  and Doxology was written there as:
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen

Why two? Or are they both just examples of the definition of doxology - an expression of praise to God.  Does the lutheran church use the first one?  I know that there are times when the words and tune to the first one just spill from me.  I have to sing it outloud.  Luther's is more staid.  Are there other named 'doxologies?'  


" with an awareness that the Father not only loves you, but likes you." - Brennan Manning


Answering Prayer - sleep

Thank you for the prayers.  I did a little more sleep last night and it was deep and dreamless.  I am feeling less weighted down.  Less overwhelmed with grief. 

Luke would have been 6 yesterday and after church and lunch, I cocooned myself inside for the day.  Wrapped myself up in the comfort of home.  I know this journey is by no means over, but maybe I am getting a brief respite, or entering a new phase.  Either way, sleep and rest are beginning to be noticed and appreciated. 

God is good - always.

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Genesis 31:1-32:32

31:39 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, "May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other."

A lot of misunderstanding lead to that verse up there.  Jacob was told to flee. Rachel stole her father's gods.  Laban got mad and chased them. God told him not to harm Jacob.  Jacob was bitter over the 20 years of labor for nothing. Laban was bitter over losing his daughters and livestock. 

So they talked. And made a covenant.  Laban won't kill Jacob, Jacob won't marry anyone else or atack Laban.

ok - I also find it funny that Rachel is sitting on her camel packs where her father's gods are and tells him she can't get up because of her period.    Just proves that everything - EVERYTHING - is mentioned in the bible!

Jacob made contact with his brother, yet was scared to hear he was coming with 400 men.  Wouldn't you be terrified?  Jacob was making plans and readying everything to meet his brother in a confrontational way.  Instead, he met God in a confrontational way.  He wrestled all night and wouldn't give up until he was blessed.  In another study - it was pointed out that God wants us to wrestle WITH him, not AGAINST him.  Jacob wrestled with him and was greatly blessed. 


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Know God - Day 24

Pastor is starting the prophets with Ezekial because Ezekial shows the three general phases of many prophetic writings.

A Warning to God's People
Ezekial 16

In my bible this is titled "An Allegory of Unfaithful Jerusalem"

God is describing his relationship between himself and Israel.  He entered into a covenant with Israel - like a bride and groom.  Then the bride goes off and prostitutes herself, melts her gold and silver into idols, defiling herself.  


God wants her to return to him.  He wants her to turn from her sins and return to him.  The prophets are who God uses to call the people to return to him.  And warning them of what will happen if they don't obey.  (getting conquered, cast into exile, etc)

What kind of bride - covenant partner - are we in relationship with God?  

I am stubborn. hard headed. not so loving at times. demanding.  questioning.  But slowly learning to be loving, accepting, comforted... Not the best partner, but one who is trying none-the-less.  

A Warning to Other Nations
Ezekial 25

In Romans god tells us 1:19-20 that "what may be known about God is plain to [all peoples], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

The foreign nations should have known God, but they worshiped gods made with human hands rather than their own creator.  AND they attacked, oppressed and persecuted God's chosen people.  In chapters 25-32, God is speaking through Ezekial - warning of judgments that were coming.  God is still standing up for his bride. still defending her - despite all the mistakes and sin.  

Pastor sees this as a call to evangelism (this makes me cringe - but I don't think he is talking about the go door to door, stop complete strangers on the street type of evangelism that makes me cringe.)  Who do we know who stands angry and opposed to the gospel?  I have a very good friend who is Jewish.  She isn't angry or opposed to the gospel. She just doesn't believe in it.  Then a family member can not standing talking to pastors.  This person has had some rough experiences and forgiveness isn't something they do easily.  

Our job is not to judge these people.  Instead we need to love them. pray for them. begin to ponder what exactly is their stumbling block...

A Comfort to Those in Exile
Ezekial 37

Oops. They didn't listen (of course not, when have they listened so far??)  Pastor defines in over simplified terms what happened to the Jews in exile:
  • 1/4 died in Babylon's conquest
  • 1/4 were captured into slavery
  • 1/4 were scattered throughout the kingdom in small enough numbers so as to not cause trouble
  • 1/4 remained as a remnant in Jerusalem and Judah, but not enough to cause trouble.  
God spoke judgement. The people got discouraged. felt great despair. God spoke HOPE.  I like how Pastor puts it,
"God was saying, you're not much more than lifeless bones scattered throughout the Middle East ... but I love you, and I will draw these lifeless bones back together.  I will stitch them together with muscle and sinews. I will breathe the breath of life, and you shall live."

Have you ever been in exile?  I have felt like it.  But was it self imposed? Are we guilty of creating our own exiles and then blaming God for it? Either way - one solid truth remains.  HE LOVES US!!!

God want to speak to us. he wants to tell us exactly what we need to hear [nevermind that we may not want to hear it!]  Our pride may make us more resistant to it.  But we should be thankful that he is willing to speak a message of judgement anyway.  When fear envelopes us, God speaks hope to us - often through his scriptures. 

What do we need to hear right now?  Pastor asks that we pray that God will speak to us in our pride, need, whatever lies between us and God. 

I need to continue hearing words of comfort. hope. healing.  Words to firmly entrench what I know in my head.  words that speak to my heart.  words of peace and rest and love.  


Explaining the Trinity

During a recent bible study, I heard an explanation of the Trinity that actually clicked with me.  It made so much sense and appealed to my visual nature.

Imagine a carton of neapolitan ice cream.  One carton, 3 flavors.
-Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry.
-Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

All distinctly separate, yet together in one carton.  Now get a big spoon and swirl all the flavors together.  Just a bit to mix it all up.

Three distinct flavors, but impossible to separate them.

That made sense to me.

The Trinity = Neapolitan Ice Cream, Swirled.


Genesis 28:10-30:43

this starts out with Jacob dreaming... jacob's ladder.  We would do well to remember what God told him in 28:15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, ... I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."  He is there. always.  we just aren't always aware of his presence.  

Jacob also promised to give God a tenth of everything.  As we should.

The Rich Mullin's song Jacob and 2 Women sums up the rest pretty well:

Jacob he loved Rachel and Rachel she loved him
And Leah was just there for dramatic effect
Well it's right there in the Bible so it must not be a sin
But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick
And her sky is just a petal pressed in a book of a memory
Of the time he thought he loved her and they kissed
And her friends say "Ah he's a devil"
But she says "No he is a dream"
This is the world as best as I can remember it

Now Jacob got two women and a whole house full of kids
And he schemed his way back to the promised land
And he finds it's one thing to win 'em
And it's another to keep 'em content
When he knows that he is only just one man
And his sky's an empty bottle and when he's drunk the ocean dry
Well he sails off three sheets to some reckless wind
And his friends say "Ain't it awful"
And he says "No I think it's fine"
And this is the world as best as I can remember it

Now Rachel's weeping for the children
That she thought she could not bear
And she bears a sorrow that she cannot hide
And she wishes she was with them
But she just looks and they're not there
Seems that love comes for just a moment
And then it passes on by

And her sky is just a bandit
Swinging at the end of a hangman's noose
'Cause he stole the moon and must be made to pay for it
And her friends say "My that's tragic"
She says "Especially for the moon"
And this is the world as best as I can remember it "

Leah wasn't loved so she bore 3 boys.  Praising God, but still not loved.  Rachel was barren.  and jealous.  so she gave her servant to him to bear sons. sound familiar? Rings of Sarah...  The ladies went around like this with Leah and maidservants having babies.  Then: 30:22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, "God has taken away my disgrace."

Jacob then wisely acquired a large and strong flock for himself by keeping only the blemished, spotted, dark sheep.  He was methodical and cautious as to how he accomplished this.  


My baby...

Happy 6th Birthday in heaven

My little boy, Lucas David, would have been 6 years old today.  He was born still at 2:01am on Saturday, January 24, 2004. He had pudgy little cheeks meant for squeezing. wispy black hair.  And he was a linebacker already at 8 pounds 13 ounces and 21 inches long.

God, for reasons unknown to me, took him from my womb where he grew and leapt and slept straight to heaven. This image is the one I hold of my peapod.  And despite this journey of grief that I am currently on, I WILL hold him in my arms one day. I know that!  It is a hope that I cling to...


Genesis 27:1-28, 36:1-43, 1 Chronicles 1:35-54

Sibling rivalry?  Jacob, with the help of his mother, stole his own brother's birthrite,  by tricking his father.  That was pretty devious.

The bulk of this is generation listing.  Just reading the names and who they belong too much.  Try reading them outloud.


Know God - Day 23

1 Kings 18 & 19, 2 Kings 2:1-14 & 4:1-37

Yesterday, despite seeing how evil the kings were, God was STILL speaking through the prophets (just no one was listening).  Today we'll be hearing from Elijah and Elisha...

[when I leave I wanna go out like Elijah with a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire...RM]

What's God saying?
18:36 The Prophet of Elijah ... said, "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel ... 37 that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God..." 38Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. 39When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God."

So - what is He telling us??? Pastor urges us to draw nearer to God NOW - and intentionally ... so that it doean't take a fire from heaven or a trial in life - to draw us nearer to God.  Let's pray for that - often!

Elijah obeyed and still suffered. He was being chased by the queen and ran until he just knew he could run no more.  But God told him through an angel in 19:7 "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you."

God is using this to tell us that this life isn't easy.


If we listen, God will speak us sustaining words in the midst of the trials.

When has God done this for you?

He is doing it now. through bluebirds

Pastor encourages us to ask God to hold our remembrances of his faithfulness ever before us ... because we WILL need that memory and his strength again and again...

19:11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD [before Jehovah, Adonai, Yahweh, at attention before God,  ], for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper/a still voice /a soft breath / a quiet subdued voice / a whistling of gentle air / a gentle blowing / a quiet gentle sound / sheer silence.

No matter the translation, God came to Elijah in simple quiet moments.  Not in the glory of strong winds and earthquakes.  Those are flash and show.  He spoke in the quiet.  Our lives are busy. Very busy [to quote Archibald from Veggietales: 
"I'm busy, busy, dreadfully busy.  
You've no idea what I have to do.  
Busy, busy, shockingly busy.  
Much, much too busy for you.  
We're busy, busy, dreadfully busy. 
You've no idea what we have to do.  
Busy, busy, shockingly busy.  
Much, much too busy for you."]

When and where is your simple quiet place and gentle holy moment of each day?  
Honestly - I don't have one.  Lately, I have been escaping to the sanctuary at church.  Praying aloud, crying, singing, and trying to sit still and listen for God's still small voice.

Then God took Elijah in a chariot of fire - separating him from Elisha - and took him to heaven in a whirlwind.  Can you imagine Elisha's shock? And the questions he had to try to answer later??? "Ah. No. He was just *poof* and gone. I guess to heaven."

What is God saying to us?  I doubt he is sending a chariot of fire to sweep us up to heaven. Can't we all wish????  Pastor tells as story about the type of transportation being handed out to use in heaven based on your life - one gets a rolls, one gets a mercedes, one gets an old VW Beetle.  The beetle recipient is caught laughing when he sees his minister passing in roller skates.  Personally - let me just be barefoot - but please let me in!!!  

The point of the story is ... God wants his faithful servants with him for all eternity.  Pastor asks us to join him in thanking, praising, and asking God for more faithfulness in your journey.  

God used Elisha to comfort others. Promising a poor widow her lamp won't run dry and a mother that death doesn't have the final word when God's around.  

Hebrews 1:1 says, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,"

The OT gives us glimpses and small tastes of what is to come with Jesus.  When was the last time we had a taste of God's power?  

I have been getting it frequently the past week or two.  Bluebirds, weight lifted, ability to exhibit anger without causing harm to anyone.  Seeing survivors still being rescued in Haiti despite how long it's been.  Amazing!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Liturgy - How? part 2.

Here are some 'don'ts' from the SpiritHome site:
  • Don't worry about your doubts.
  • Don't worry about how much time you spend at prayer.
  • Don't worry about using the right words.
  • Don't worry that you might think something really bad and God will get mad.
  • Don't worry about whether you're 'ready' to pray.
  • Don't worry about whether you have the right theology of prayer.
  • Don't worry about thinking of something to say.
  • Don't worry about how to pray.
"One should offer not what one has, but what one is." 
Paul Evdokimov, *The Sacrament Of Love*

start small and keep it simple.   that is how we should begin praying.  simple. heartfelt. even breath prayers are a way to begin.  you don't have to pray outloud. I don't like to pray outloud.  But I am learning to pray outloud to God - especially when I am alone in the sanctuary.  

People used to gather to pray the Psalms.  Here are benefits of praying in a group, with a set verse(s)
  • they prayed when they didn't feel like praying;
  • they prayed when they didn't want to pray;
  • they prayed when they'd really rather do something else;
  • they prayed when they had trouble concentrating on praying;
  • they prayed when they weren't ready to do it;
  • they prayed the Bible by basing their liturgies and readings on the Scriptures;
  • they prayed for and with those they were in conflict with;
  • they prayed about people and matters that they wouldn't have otherwise thought to pray for or would have forgotten to pray for.
Good things to remember even now.  I have been known to use the liturgy as a way to get me through the service.  Now I am seeing it as a way to really embed the scripture onto my heart.  I want God's words seared into my heart.  


Know God - Day 22

 1 Kings 12

God is speaking through his prophets...and the kings weren't listening. of course.

After Solomon died, the country split.  One trip went to the north calling themselves Israel with Jeroboam and the others stayed south with Rehoboam. These were called Jew-duh (Judah) and included Jerusalem - the City of David.

What is God saying to us?  He tells us to 'don't be as evil as Jeroboam' and 'don't be as unwise as Rehoboam.'

The northern tribe approached the southern tribe and offered to serve them if theyhelped lighten their load.  Wisely we sought out the advisors and elders.  Unwisely he ignored them.  and turned to his peers for what they said.  God is telling us to seek wise advice, but stick with it!!  Don't wait until you hear what you want to hear.

Have we ever searched for advice we wanted to hear? how did it turn out?  Of course. I am a stubborn human.  And it never turns out well.  I always end up going back to the original advice that I tried to ignore.  Begrudgingly...

1 Kings 14:7-10; 15:26; 34; 16:13, 19, 25, 30; 22:52
2 Kings 3:2; 13:2; 13:11; 14:24; 15:9; 15:18; 15:24; 15:28; 17:2
(read until you notice a definite pattern)

All the kings of Israel were evil. End of story.   I heard a pastor recently that found a trend - all the evil kings of Israel had short reigns.  The righteous ones, the ones who did good in the eyes of God had longer reigns.  You can read and notice how long they ruled. (or didn't)

Now - the consequences -

2 Kings 17:5-9
We hurt God - often! By our sin, rebellion, evil.  And we pay for it.  Here the consequence of the sin, evil and rebellion is God removing his hand of protection.  I know without a doubt that I need - not just want - NEED God's hand of protection on me.  Pastor says we need to confess our sins. Now.

Now the kings of Judah:
1 Kings 14:22; 2 Kings 8:18, 27; 21:2, 20; 23:32, 37; 24:09, 19

Lots of evil here too.  But there were some that did return to God. Evil=stirring up God's jealous anger (not very wise), did evil in the eyes of the Lord...

2 Kings 18:1-3; 22:1-2
Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and destroyed the high places.
Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, destroyed high places, walked in all the ways of David and did not turn aside to the right or left.  Pretty high praise after all the evil kings we've seen.

Then there were those in the middle of the road...
1 Kings 15:11-14; 22:43
2 Kings 12:2-3, 14:3-4, 15:3-4, 34-35

They did what was right. However,  ...

From Pastor: how many of us live "good ... but ..." lives?  They kings didn't remove the high places - the pagan gods of fertility, of the sky. temple prostitutes (you can guess their role). These kings followed God, but allowed the pagan places to remain. Tolerated heresy in the land.  A double standard.

How do we live "good ... but ..." lives?  In what ways do you and/or society officially worship God, but allow pagan places to remain? Is it good or bad that tolerance seems to be the highest value in our society today?

Oh - we're messed up!!!  I am good, but.. I sin. I don't try hard enough not to most of the time.  Me, you society - we allow pagan places to remain. With our freedom of religion, it can be a fine line to do away with it.  It drives me batty that tolerance is the seemingly highest value in our society.  Why do we have to tolerate someone who'd just as soon cuss you for your belief than let you walk quietly by?  It is going to the extreme in society.  Christians are being told to be tolerant of everything, yet others are not expected to return the favor.  (hmm wonder how I feel about this.)

Pastor's count on the kings of Judah was unofficial, but it is safe to say that a very large majority of the kings were evil. What was the final verdict on Judah?

2 Kings 24:1-4
(This passage has some of my favorite bible names.  Say them out loud.  They bounce!)
The Lord was not willing to forgive the shedding of innocent blood.
What???? Judah did not obey. God removed protection.  Ouch.

Pastor writes a prayer:
"O Lord, do not take your hand of protection from me.  Turn me from evil that I may live.  Help my heart to be less divided so I may follow you."


Friday, January 22, 2010

Genesis 25:1-4, 1 Chronicles 1:32-34, Genesis 25:5-6, 1 Chronicles 1:34, Genesis 25:19-26, 25:7-11, 25:27-25:35

Descendants of Abe.  He remarried after Sarah died and had more sons.  He also had sons with concubines.  These sons he sent away from Isaac - the one to inherit his estate.

Isaac's sons, Esau and Jacob were born before Abe died.  At least they got to know his grandfather a little.  Isaac pretended Rebekah was his wife. Silly man.  He was caught caressing her by the king and then the king forbade anyone to touch them.  Guess his plan worked in the long run, but was that the best way to go about it? 

Today's selection ends with Esau marrying two women - Judith (another name I never knew was in the bible) and Basemath.  But this is the interesting part 26:35 "They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah."  Wonder why???


Signs, itchy fingers, and answered prayer

i feel like i have words in me itching to get out.  they will just start flowing and escaping from my fingertips if i don't capture them soon.  i have been wanting to write and write and write all day and have resisted.  Now it is 2am and I am giving in for a few more minutes.  my intense anger is gone.  now i want to write and write and write....I grabbed a napkin at panera today and wrote all over it. then spilled soup on it and threw it away.  [good thing it wasn't my computer!]

I am a skeptic when it comes to 'signs.'  Are people creating something out of nothing and calling it a sign? is it from God truly? is it really a sign???? or a mirage?  I tend to ignore possible signs and need to be smacked over the head with a 2x4 - multiple times.  Did I mention I had a stubborn streak??


There is one sign I have been acutely aware of...bluebirds.  As a sign of comfort from God.  I have only seen them a handful of times and only since Luke died.  and only at very specific times.

  • When I went to the cabin to 'run away' 6 weeks after Luke died.  I saw a bluebird multiple times when I was in the swing just existing.  Numb. grieved. painfully alive. Didn't think too much of it then.
  • June 12, 2004 - Luke's burial at the cabin. a difficult day. Another sighting.  
  • Walking through Florrisent NP in Colorado - was able to capture one on film...just before we left CO to move back east.
  • Subsequent visits to the cabin - I have had at least one sighting.
This is about when I really started to make a connection between my sorrow and a bluebird sighting.  Seemed like God was saying, "He's here. He's ok. You'll see him again."
  • This past Christmas at the cabin - a bluebird fluttered down under the steps in front of the picture window.  It took my breath away - literally.  Then flew off.  
  • This week, after raging at God in the outdoor sanctuary, I was sitting in my car trying to decide if I was ok to drive home.  A bluebird appeared at the head of the path.  I followed it a little to make certain I wasn't seeing things.  Nope - it was a bluebird.  
God providing visual comfort in times of sorrow and grief.  Something I had been asking for.  He is here! He does care! I will survive this time of mourning and itchy fingers.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Liturgy - how?

In trying to write my own - I have to figure out how.  Do you just read something written? Do you pick a piece of scripture or song or old prayer and say it outloud?  I am so confused.  Am I making this too hard?

You can find almost anything online... One site is called Ways to Pray  **caveat - I do NOT agree with everything I read, especially online.  I am very cynical and ---the word left me, doubting, questioning, ...

The Jesus Prayer was mentioned first.  I have long breathed the words "Jesus, give me rest" or just "Je" "sus" on inhalations and exhalations when unable to sleep due to my mind going 90 to nothing.  Apparently this is a practice dating back a long time.  The eastern orthodox pray "Lord Jesus Christ" (on inhalation) "have mercy on me, a sinner" on exhalation - or simply "jesus" "mercy".  This is credited to Luke 18:13.  Historically, according to the site, breath prayers were based on the refrains of Psalms.  I just know that it is something that has helped me cry out to Jesus for peace in my heart and spirit.

Reading the bible prayerfully.  This was very interesting to me.  I will just quote the author here, "One form of it goes like this : first, quiet your mind down. If you find that hard to do, it often helps that you focus on taking deep breaths. Once you're gotten some focus, begin softly speaking a chosen Bible passage. Then, read it again real slow, this time listening for a word or phrase that stirs you, speaking again and again until one stands out. Then stay with that word or phrase, and ask why the Spirit is stirring you with it. Take what you're thinking, feeling, and remembering, and offer it back to God in prayer. Then repeat the process. You'll be finished when you get a sense of peace about it. Or, you may finish with a sense of exhausted disturbance, in which you know you've poured it out for now, but you're still being stirred in a way that may only be resolved as the day goes on. (If so, keep going back to that word or phrase throughout the day, and see what it has to do with your life.)"

Collect: A new term to me.  Used in liturgical churches as part of the services.  The author at spirithome describes the parts of a collect as

  1. Address the Father;
  2. appeal to something about God's character that is relevant to what is being prayed about;
  3. the request, usually drawn in some way from the Scripture readings for the day;
  4. why you're asking;
  5. through Jesus;
  6. a praise of God.
Sounds...easy? but I have ways of making it difficult.  :-)  

But these aren't really answering my question of how.  Any suggestions? Liturgy, personal liturgy, is a foreign concept and I am having trouble wrapping my head around it.  


Liturgy - what is good about it?

I grew up southern baptist, married a lutheran, have attended churches from both and also assembly of god, evangelical free, evangelical covenant,  and non-denominational.  I am an evangelical mutt.  Rich Mullins really opened my mind to liturgy with his song Creed.  I never knew the Apostle's Creed even existed, much less what it said.  And we are exploring joining another Lutheran church.  Pastor has encouraged me to develop my own liturgy to pray - for those times when I am feeling lost, distant, despondent, basically a mess.  Easier said than done.  Especially for a person who wants to do it perfectly and not mess it up.  (Likely not possible, but...)  I do know that when we went to a lutheran church previously, the days that I felt less than worshipful. less than wanting to be there. less than joyful with God. Just saying the liturgy in the service helped slowly turn my heart most days.  Some days it was simply words...but I said them anyway and I believe that despite the poor attitude on my part - he accepted my obedience in even just saying them.  SO - I am working on my own personal liturgy... in my own convoluted, uneducated, confused way.

I stumbled upon an interesting website that talks about liturgy and the whys of it.

Basically - even 'non-liturgical' churches use 'canned' materials - the Bible (not very spontaneous), hymns (how many churches make up new hymns every week - on the spot?), set service structure from week to week.  Not very spontaneous or extemporaneous.  Sounds kinda canned - like liturgical churches are often accused of being.

What is good about liturgy?

  1. Written Prayers Provide a Solid Structure for Worship - most are lifted straight from scripture and the service order follows the order of how Jesus taught us - confession, thanksgiving, communion, etc.
  2. Written Prayers Allow for Common Prayer - this brings the members closer. there is a better sense of togetherness when all are praying the same prayer.  Spontaneous prayers weren't really mainstream until relatively recently. 
  3. Written Prayers Allow For Real Freedom of Worship - structured prayer provides an excellent jumping off point for spontaneous prayer.  It helps get the heart and mind focused on God instead of 'wandering aimlessly.'
  4. Written Prayers Connect Us to the Past and to the Wider Church - consider the Lord's Prayer.  It has been prayed for centuries in all languages.  It truly connects Christians to each other.  We can go to Tanzania and still pray the Lord's Prayer with them (although not in the same language.) but the heart of it is the same.  And our grandparent's grandparents also prayed these same prayers.  
  5. Written Prayers Are Time-Tested - they are theologically sound. don't ramble without saying anything. I have been in many services where it seemed the person praying aloud was going on and on and on and on - it seemed they really enjoyed the sound of their own voice.  Meanwhile...I was sometimes fighting sleep.  A liturgical prayer has meat, thought, simplicity (at least in my experiences).
  6. Jesus Gave Us a Set Form For Prayer - The Lord's Prayer aka Our Father (I was in my mid-late 20's before I realized they were one and the same.)  Jesus showed us how to pray liturgically - not conversationally - although the latter is still perfectly fine. 
  7.  Written Prayers are Scriptural - they enable us to pray the scriptures.  and they harken back to the ancient jewish traditions of praying the scriptures/psalms.  
The author states, "I tend to think of written prayers like singing a favorite song. How many times do you crank up the radio and sing along to your favorite songs? Sometimes these songs are pretty old, yet we still sing them. I still sing along to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" with the same gusto as I did when I first heard it 10 years ago. It is even the ring-tone for my mobile phone. Ultimately good songs' ages don't matter, so long as they are good, solid, songs. The same is true of written prayers."  

Now to have prayers stuck in your head - wouldn't that be cool???  


Know God - Day 21

Song of Solomon 4

Is this a series of love poems? A love opera? An allegory? A celebration of sex? A celebration of love between God and his people? Personally -  if anyone told me my teeth were like a flock of sheep just shorn - I'd laugh them out of the room.  The images this chapter brought to my mind were not the most romantic to say the least!

But what is God saying to us?
Pastor is using the last interpretation - a celebration of love between God and his people.  In our hearts, do we find God this passionate for us?  I believe that he is aware of all our details.  That he rejoices in us and truly loves us.  Passion? I don't know. After the past few weeks, I am inclined to say yes.

Ecclesiastes 1; 2; 3:1-8
What does God say to us here? Outright - nothing.  Pastor tells us these are human reflections. the end result of a life spent chasing after wisdom. chasing after wind (one translation wrote 'spitting into the wind'.)  The only certain in life is death (and taxes but lets not think about that).  What happens to everything you've gained, earned, accumulated and pleasured yourself with?  You are still dead. It is meaningless or 'smoke'.

God is speaking in the nothingness, the hollowness of Solomon's words.  The loud whisper is that all of the 'stuff' on earth will go away - He's the only guarantee. The only forever. The only thing worth chasing.

How are we chasing after the wind?  I am all too often guilty of acquiring too much 'stuff'. I love old books. The feel. the smell. the sound of the pages turning. They won't go with me, yet I have shelf upon shelf full of them in my house (and need more shelves!)  I also try to improve in my career field.  I love what I do - seeing someone go from a devastating stroke to able to communicate and eat again is always a blessing.  I volunteer - sometimes too much. I have trouble saying 'no' when asked to do something, thus stealing time from my family and others.  This doesn't always have an eternal impact and saying 'no' from time to time is perfectly ok.

What is one thing we can do to become a God-Chaser? for me, I am getting into the bible every single day.  I am doing this study and a chronological bible reading - and writing about it.  I am not using any aids in this except sometimes other translations or a thesaurus to better understand a word or two.  I have only done this for 21 days (how long until something is a habit?).  I have seen some changes in my thoughts and desires.  But I am not holding my breath for anything huge happening.  I don't have to run fast to chase God - I just have to be pointed in the right direction and stay on the path.  (easier said than done at times...what was that about curiosity???)


Genesis 22:1-24:67

After involuntarily losing a child, I can NOT imagine the pain in Abe's heart knowing that to be obedient he was to sacrifice his child.  His only son.  In my over-active imagination, I can picture Sarah kneeling on the floor, arms wrapped around herself and weeping, sobbing, a keening cry.  [bawling, bewailing, howling, lamenting, mourning, shedding tears, sobbing, sorrowing, tears, wailing, weeping, yowling]

I always imagined Isaac at about 5-7, someone wise told me he was believed to be 12-13.  Either way, he had to be terrified when his father bound him and placed him on the alter.  Abe had the knife held over him when the angel spoke and revealed the sacrificial ram in the bushes.  Isaac's cheeks could not have been dry.  [ok - the sick cynic in me also hears the sound effects from Psycho - e-e-e-e-] The sacrificial lamb - to save his son.  Hmmm...

Imagine Sarah's overwhelming joy to see her only son return - ALIVE!!!  He was there to touch, hold, see, smell...he was alive!

Abe then bargained to buy a cave and field to bury his dead. It does matter where you bury a loved one - especially when you are in an area where you are a 'stranger and an alien.'  Abe loved Sarah and wanted her buried with dignity and respect.

When Abe was old (as if 100 wasn't old in the first place!) he made his servant promise to find a wife for Isaac that wasn't from Canaan, but from the land of their ancestors.  The servant went out with gifts and then set a 'sign' to show him the right girl.  I don't know what I think about 'signs.'  When I hear other people talk about watching for a 'sign' from God, I am leary.  When I hear someone talk about all the signs that lead them to a certain place in life, I don't really believe them.  I think 'signs' are personal in nature and are likely used still by God, but there is so much corruption that we have to be careful who we believe and exactly how the signs are interpreted.  (I have a personal 'sign' story that I will post later.)

The servant met Rebecca - Abraham's great niece (if I calculated correctly) - everyone respected the servant's tale and the fact that it was of the Lord.  My favorite verse I think is 24:67 67 "Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death."


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Not Abandoned on this Amazing Journey

Today was much better - spiritually that is.  Physically, I'm exhausted.  In this journey, I have been seeing the fingerprints of God and discovering that he did not leave me abandoned as it felt so many years ago.

I went through sympathy cards and found many from COMPLETE strangers!  Friends of friends... just to say they were praying... to share their stories...  Today Pastor E listened with me to the tape of the memorial service. I had forgotten just how many people participated.  How surrounded with love we were - and still are.    Yesterday I was raging at God. Today I am surprised by his amazing grace.  My eyes are being opened. I am no longer numb. The thick dragon skin is being peeled away...just hope there aren't too many more layers.  Pastor E. tells me he is treating this journey as if Lucas just died.  He tells me my pain is so raw and my grief so intense, that it may as well be new...and that I can now grieve like I was unable to before.

Another dear friend and I figured that this was the first time since Luke died that I have been still and listening to God.  I usually keep very busy...this time I have slowed down. and been intentional about studying the bible with the daily reading and the Know God study.

But God is good.  VERY GOOD.

He let us start settling in a church filled with caring and compassionate people as he was allowing my grief to wash over me like a tidal wave.  He gave me a place to cry, scream, pray, worship, listen - safely.  Now God is showing me that I wasn't alone the first time and I will not be alone this time.

Pastor K quoted me in the service (I have absolutely NO recollection of saying this!)

"It is an amazing journey."  Yes - it is.  Not easy, not short. not pain free. not alone.  But amazing. and by no means finished yet.