Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year

Today is the last day of the year 2009. Where has it gone? What did I enjoy? What would I avoid for future years?

The scripture from Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 comes to mind,
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven --
A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to week, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; A time to war, and a time for peace.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?
I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just say, "no"

I praise God for His mercy, His love, His giving me strength when I felt like quitting. Whew... The semester is almost finished. I love my job, don't get me wrong. But this semester was a challenge from the beginning. To best meet the needs of students, I couldn't let any of the classes on the schedule get canceled even though we did not have an instructor for one. So... I took that additional class section.

Well, I shouldn't have.

I had too many hours, so I spent every waking minute checking discussion boards (for two online courses), grading papers, responding to students, preparing for class, plus taking care of other duties that come with the territory.

So what good came from this stressful semester?

I have now added a new word to my vocabulary. It's not a very long word, but it has much meaning. You probably already know just from reading the little to this silly blog posting.


Sometimes we must step back and realize that the best thing I can do is NOT do something.

Sometimes we just need to stop the rat-race and review what does God want? How can He use me? What direction does He have for me?

I thought of the scripture, "Be still and know that I am God." (Ps. 43:10)

Yeah... be still....

Psalm 43:1-3, 7-11
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, although the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Thou its water roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride...

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fir.

"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stonghold.

And for me to be still, maybe I do need to just say, "no".

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thankgiving - even in December

This evening thoughts flooded my brain (yep, that doesn't happen often, does it...) On this weekend of enjoying grandkids -- overwhelmed by the activity level a billion times above our normal around here -- joy in the wonder of small things they enjoy or find amusing -- the beauty of their smiles at us or each other -- the awe of their affection toward one another, life goes on in reality. The innocence of a child hushed with the death of a person at the other end of life's spectrum.

This lady found a few months ago that she was actually quite ill. Her husband had gone through many tests and diagnosis for his maladies, but it was her quietly supporting him in the background that had much more serious threats to her survival. And just Saturday she went to her eternal home with our Lord and Savior.

Why I am thankful? That perfect celebration the fourth Thursday in November has come and gone. Why am I focusing on thanksgiving rather than the birth of Jesus -- King of kings and Lord or lords - -the Messiah?

I am thankful because of Jesus coming as a babe.

As I watched Eli and Hannah these past few days, I saw the love that can be shared - not only from adults to children, but from children back to the adults and from child to child. I saw also the natural, human element of sin -- not only in the children as they fought over a toy (or knob on the kitchen cabinets), but also my sin as I responded not always as I knew I ought or wanted. God came to earth as one of us -- taking on the human nature, but rising above the sinful nature and bridging the gap that sin causes between man and God.

Baby Jesus matured into the man that healed the sick, taught multitudes, shared God's love to outcasts, and ultimately died on the cross for each one of us.

This bridge between God and man, in the form of Jesus Christ, makes me thankful. As my friend died of cancer, I knew that her final destiny was not the box in the ground after a short period of struggling with strength for her daily tasks, but to eternal life worshiping God.

From the beginning to the end -- alpha and omega -- God is God above all. His love abounds.

For His love, I am thankful. For our time here on earth and His giving us grace and strength, I am thankful. For His calling us back to Him when our time here on earth if finished, I am thankful.

All this brought forth by the baby Jesus.

I am thankful - -even in December.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas and the Cross

The Christmas story brings pictures of a field, donkey, village filled with people, a barn, hay, Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus. Gathered around are shepherds with animals peering at a new born babe. Rumor had this child as a new born king -- even the stars in the heavens guided seekers to the wondrous sight.

Angels promised Mary, "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.... He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end." When Mary questioned how this news could possibly come to pass, the angel assured her, "So the holy one will be called the Son of God... For nothing is impossible with God."

Many Christmas carols bring forth words recognizing Jesus as more than just an ordinary baby boy, born in the night.

Singers ring out, "Come, Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free.... By Thine all sufficient merit raise us to Thy glorious throne."

Singers ring out, "Hark! The herald angels sing, 'Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!' Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, 'Christ is born in Bethlehem!' Hark! The herald angels sing, 'Glory to the newborn King!'".

Singers ring out, "On this day earth shall ring with the song children sing to the Lord, Christ our King, born on earth to save us; Him the Father gave us. Ideo-o-o.... gloria in excelsis Deo! On this day angels sing; with their song earth shall ring. Praising Christ, heaven's King, born on earth to save us; Peace and love He gave us. Ideo-o-o... gloria in excelsis Deo!"

Preparing to lead worship one of the Sundays of Christmas, one of the suggested scripture readings is Philippians 2:5-13. These verses struck me hard in the midst of this celebration of a baby, for the message was not of the innocence of a child, but the ultimate giving for each one of us. These verses state, "(Jesus) emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Therefore, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

The story is not only about Jesus as a baby, God taking human form, but about Jesus dying for us as the interaction between God and man because we are loved. Through His birth as human and his dying to save, each is claimed as God's own. As the angel announced to Mary at the beginning of Jesus' life within her, with a message that carries forever, "For nothing is impossible with God."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not the owner

Note: All quotations are from "Shaken Not Shattered" by Matthew Hagee, published by Charisma House, 2009.

When I was in Kansas City for a conference I found myself searching TV early on Sunday morning for a glimpse of worship. Our daily session had a starting time of 8:00 sharp, so visiting a church for Sunday morning worship was not an option. As a possible alternative, I stood with remote in hand cruising the options for worship with doubts of success. Fortunately, I landed on a sermon by Matthew Hagee. The message was clear and energized me for the day.

The topic was "Shaken Not Shattered" with a clear message that no matter what trials and tribulations we experience, God is still God. He is Unshakable. He is Almighty.

Just recently I purchase his book that expounds that sermon. Although I am not finished with it, I already see areas that need my repentance, forgiveness, and humility.

One point is that priorities need to be kept straight. God is in control and when I try to do things my way, taking charge of all areas of my life, I shift Him out of the picture and put myself in the driver seat. "In truth, the more we try to take over our lives, the more totally out of control we become on every level... However, no matter how much power and influence you possess, you will always serve in the capacity of management and not in ownership... "

Indeed, "God is not here to fit into our busy lives and exist only when and where it is convenient for us. Remember the first commandment? 'Thou shall have no other gods before Me.' That means that in order for the King of kings to rule in our lives, our personal desires have to be dethroned.... You and I are here to function on His schedule for His glory and to pursue His purpose."

As I scramble this semester with many hours of prep, grading papers, and responding to students too often I have left out studying His word, praying, or singing songs with rejoicing. He had been sent to the back burner as my efforts focused on just keeping up with the daily requirements.

Had I asked for His help and blessing on my time? Had I set aside that one more check to my online classes to spend some time in His Word or say a prayer or listen for His voice?

Put Him in control.... I'm not the owner, He is. All that I have is His...

Oh Lord, help me to be humble, recognizing you as Maker, Unshakable, Almighty. As I try to take control and be strong in ways that take my focus off of You, help me to see my selfishness. Help me to remember that I am not the owner, but simply the manager that needs directives through prayer to carry out Your plan.

Work humility, gentleness, kindness, and self-sacrifice into my daily walk with you. Forgive me for finding other things more important in my time to the point of leaving you out of regular study and devotion. Help me to serve You and put no other gods above you...

Thank you for messengers along the way to remind me of Your ways. Thank you for brothers and sisters in Christ to help guide and encourage. Help me give all that I have back to You -- time, talents, skills, love, money, spaces... all oh, Lord.

In Jesus' name... Amen....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Is 100% enough?

Several weeks ago I preached at two neighboring churches to enable to the pastor to have some time off from the pulpit. In preparation I typically explore many different avenues for God's possible message, exploring the assigned lectionary scriptures for details or new meaning, searching for reminders of His work or path for us.

My second week as worship leader brought me to studying and searching with limited time. The harder I tried to go beyond my original inkling of a message resulted in new meetings, conflicts and challenges added within the calendar. Although I prepared the service and lead with confidence, my heart was heavy driving from one church to the next. I had not taken opportunity to dive into the Word and explore nuance of meaning. Instead, I had merely pulled together the service and message that I felt appropriate -- and then called it good. But that 30 minute drive between churches made me doubt what I really had given to the Lord.

Would the congregation members hear a message from their God and Savior? Would the people hear a message directly to the individual and pressing them toward life in Christ? Would my words be enough?

The question kept looming over me... Would my words be enough? And then a voice whispered in my ear.

A voice spoke clearly that the work that I offer is not my own. The work that I do is God's work. He uses my voice. He uses my hands. He uses my feet. The work is God's work -- He is the One that speaks to the heart of those listening. He is the One that draws others to Him. He is God. It is not my words that make a flick of a difference to any that are there. It is God's speaking and breathing life into those words.


I am reminded of several scriptures:
Phil 2:13 ... for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
God is working with us -- we are but clay for Him to mold and shape after His will. He can use what I offer, but it is not MY working -- but HIS working.

Heb. 13:20 Now the God of peace who brought up from the dead for the great Shepherd of the sheep though the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
God is the one who does the work -- using me as a vessel for His service. He is working... for His glory.

My questions as I drove kept coming back to giving 100%. I felt that with the resources that I have, I had given Him 100%. I had given Him all the possible time that I had to give. I had given all the possible studying and all possible devotion. Why did I feel that one should give more time, more devotion, more studying, more of myself for Him?

And then it hit. I wanted to give Him more. I wanted to study more. I wanted to search more. But time just simply did not allow.

I had given Him 100%. Was it enough???

In the still voice, I heard, "100% is enough." It is not what Rebecca does, anyway. It is what God does with those small offerings of words, prayers, etc, that makes the difference to any one person.

The widow gave what she could, and her story is recorded for us all to learn a lesson. (Mark 12:41-44) Give what you can and the Lord blesses it for His use.

Allow God that opportunity to use what we offer. With His grace, stand confident that what is offered He can use.

He can take my 100% and make it work something valuable -- if I allow that. Offer what I have to Him, and ask Him within His mercy to use it as He wills.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thank you, Lord!

Today I played the piano at church again. In my final prep, I asked the Lord to call my nerves and help the adrenline not to flow such that I shake. When I prayed in the middle of the service last time, His hand obviously calmed me. Again, I lifted the prayer and His calming hand took charge.

There is a song based on I Peter 5:7: "Cast all your care on Him, for He careth for you..."

Thank you, God! I give testimony of a living, active and loving God! Thank you for calming my hands and my heart.

May the music and my life be an offering to You!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Husband encouragement challenge

This concept is a new one for me -- "husband encouragement challenge." I did a little with it several years ago, but my My daughter and my daughter-in-law have been faithfully including ways to honor their husbands. Their joy spills out as they share something special they have done, thought, or prayed for their mate.

Today as I was grocery shopping, a light bulb popped on for me. What could I do to honor my husband -- to participate in encouraging my husband?

Hubby is at a conference right now, scheduled to return home on Wednesday. My Wednesday, however, is packed with meetings in the afternoon and early evening... So what could I do special to welcome him home?...

Well, what about dinner for him -- in the fridge such that he can eat it cold (you know, a salad or something) or warm it up? How about German potato salad with sausage...? Maybe add a lettuce salad with sliced tomato from the garden... And for dessert cherry fruit pizza?

You know what I found as a result of taking the challenge (again)? I found that I was excited about showing someone love. I was excited about focusing on someone or something other than myself. I was excited to think of other things that might show Hubby he is valuable to me.
The best closing to this post would be scripture that ties my actions back to what we are instructed to do or in showing God's love by serving others. But it is late and I'm tired and I don't have a scripture to share. Any thoughts????

Friday, July 10, 2009

Psalms Part 2

The Psalms offer a variety of uplifting praise and yet invoke emotions of torment, sorrow, or frustration. In this study of the Psalms one of the first points for theology brought out in The New Interpreter's Bible - Volume IV (Abingdon Press) is found in the first word in Psalm 1:1. The NIV uses "blessed" and NRSV uses "happy".

Happiness can come through a variety of experiences and situations. We sing "Happy birthday to you.... " wishing a person well on the date of their coming into the world. The Psalms, though, clarify that the happiness is from placing our focus on God. "The 'happy' are those who constantly delight in God's 'instruction'. In short, happiness derives from the complete orientation of life to God, including perpetual openness to God's instruction." (NIB, page 666)

The study continues that happiness is tied to taking "refuge" in God. "In short, happiness derives from living in complete dependence upon God rather than upon self." To take refuge, we must "trust".

Grounds for trust include God's power and strength (Ex. 14:31, II Ti. 1:12), His unfailing love (Ps. 13:5), and salvation that He offers. We respond to what He has done through praise and worship, perseverance in faith, and holding to His promises. The end results for us show in peace, security, protection from danger, freedom from fear, prosperity, strength, and physical life. (Zondervan)

Getting back to refuge, the definition given in Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes states, "A safe retreat; a place of healing and renewal; also a stronghold from which to launch a counter-attack." God is indeed our true refuge.

Jesus tells his followers, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:27-29)

That message continues to the churches as the apostle Paul declares, "... If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?.... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31-32, 38-39)

And as we put our trust in Him, our happiness is filled up. Not with things of this earth, but in knowledge of a God bigger than anything here. The apostle Paul encourages us, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! ... The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.... whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let you mind dwell on these things. " (Phil. 4:4, 6-8)

The Psalms are encouraging each of us to turn our hearts to the Lord, taking refuge in Him and trusting Him. And we shall know happiness.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Have a cup of tea

I love tea. For many years I have enjoyed a cup most every day. In the south, iced tea is served “sweetened” with just the right amount of sugar to keep a person sipping for hours. Some places add a slice of lemon to add to the flavors and refreshment. Other places serve tea with crumpets or scones to offer an afternoon tea-break.

When looking in the grocery store for tea to replenish the shelf, I noted the varieties available. One can get just “tea” – you know, that orange pekoe blend that is what I first think about with tea. In today’s world, that “orange pekoe” can now be decaffeinated to or go with the “Cold Brew” option available both as a single cup or family size. If you want a flavored tea, the options continue to grow. How about honey vanilla chamomile, earl grey, darjeeling or a variety of herb teas like raspberry, orange and spice, or perfect peach? Then we can go to various colors: green tea, white tea, or black tea.

After the “tea” is selected, one can then decide for cream and / or sugar, or one of the many options in the dairy case for an extra within the cream – like French vanilla, amaretto, or hazelnut.I’m not a connoisseur of tea. Believe me, if I were taste-testing I wouldn’t be able to tell which flavor or type of tea is in my cup. But I have learned something about myself related to tea. The preference for tea with milk and sugar is definitely higher than just plain tea. On a cold day I prefer hot day, and on a hot day I prefer cold tea (with sugar like found in the south.) Then it came to preference for cream rather than milk and of course adding sugar was great too. Then I preferred French vanilla over cream and definitely over milk. Then I had to have 2 cups, not just 1.

And then it hit me.

This simple cup of tea could become a cup of sin for me. How- you ask? By letting my thoughts and desires escalate to what I want. For me, that simple cup of tea was not just simple – like turning on the tap for cool water. I found myself thinking of which flavor or addition or hot / cold or which cup to serve myself that silly cup of tea. It wasn’t just a simple cup of tea anymore, but a progression of wanting something more than what I had been having before. How could I make that cup of tea better? Doing things better is fine. I am an educator with goal of helping others learn so that they have something more than they had before. But… that “more” can become an obsession that does not allow satisfaction in the simple.

As I was driving home from Omaha after a wonderful vacation in Denver with family, I heard a message by Jack Graham on the local radio station. He started his message with “We all worship something. Who or what is your God?”

And you know what came to mind for me? That silly cup of tea… For each of us serving Christ, the god that directs us away from worshipping the Most High alone might be something small that just gets bigger and bigger within our thoughts and desires. Of course, I don’t fall down and worship tea – it does not sit on a table and I bow before it. But the thoughts and desires can turn to fleshly desires such that we cross the line of OK to sinful.

Jack Graham points out that idolatry is a serious sin with serious consequences – so if we practice idolatry in any form with our hearts, hands and mind there are severe repercussions. Rather than turning away from anything that takes too much of our attentions, we often change our view of God. He said, “We want a God that will tolerate our excesses and our lifestyles as we choose.” [True Worship, Sunday June 14, 2009 found at ]

Excesses…. That word hit me…. How often am I not a content person with what I DO have? I want something more… something better… or simply something different. Again, I do think progress moves us on from one place to another. But what about the exclusivity of Christ and Biblical standards that are given?

Christ calls us to a life not of personal fulfillment, but a life of self-denial, a life of service to Him. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “ (Matthew 16:24)Jesus tells his disciples in relation to seeking treasures, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body than clothing…. And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying… But seek His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:22-34 selections)

Dr. Graham said, “We ultimately become what we worship. If we are dedicated to food, we will become gluttons. If we are dedicated to drink we will become drunkards… If we are dedicated to self and personal fulfillment we will neglect the compassion and love for Christ...” We ought to have a life of service, commitment, and devotion and worship and love and sacrifice…

Who is God? He is the Lord above. All are directed to “have no other gods before me….” (Exodus 20:3)

Keep watch within your own life to what starts as OK, but then becomes bigger and bigger such that the fine line is crossed. The “self-desire’ becomes too big and our “serving Him” becomes smaller.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

David the blogger - Psalms Part I

For the past several years I have been reading through the Bible using a list of each book and recommended readings for the day. The list was designed to read the Bible in 1 year. Okay... I just admitted that I have been working on this for several years... And one book that I have read in the past, but not within the "list" was Psalms.

As a child I read the Psalms -- for whatever reason I could identify with the author's anguish, love, hate, etc that flowed through the words. Over the years I have heard a reading from Psalms at worship on Sunday morning (each lectionary passage includes a Psalm -- so with 150 of them, and 52 weeks in a year, every third year we start over again) and at funerals (with the 23rd Psalm at 99% of them) and the words set to a variety of melodies for hymns or "Christian" songs.

Finally I put Psalms at the top of the Bible reading list and set off through those familiar expressions of praise and anguish. But the other night it occurred to me -- maybe I should try a different approach. Rather than just reading the words, look to further messages. What can I learn about God or my approach to Him in the midst of the written words? What response does He desire back from me in my devotion of service to Him?

On a day of wandering, I ran across a book, "The Bible" within "the Smart Guide to the Bible series". This was a really cheap book in a store that I did not anticipate selling anything religious. I bought the book because it was so cheap, I wanted to let the store know that I support their carrying Christian material, and in just 2 pages I learned something. One thing was the list classified as "expressions of emotion" -- that very thing thing that drew me as a youngster to reading Psalms. The emotions listed were:
1. Anger at others (Ps. 7, 36)
2. Guilt over sins (Ps. 32, 51)
3. Anxiety or fear (Ps. 23, 64)
4. Discouragement (Ps. 42, 107)
5. Joy (Ps. 33, 98)
6.Loneliness (Ps. 25, 91)
7. Stress (Ps. 31, 89)
8. Troubled (Ps. 10, 126)
9. Weakness (Ps. 62, 102)
10. Envy (Ps. 16, 73)
(p. 77)

Another list was the "What's to Talk About?"
Themes, confession of sins, consideration of right choices, anticipation of Christ, call on God to judge, complain to God, thanks for deliverance, and praise for God himself. (p. 77)

The view of David as a blogger popped in my head. He was just rambling at whatever came into his mind about God -- they caught on and now there is a book of those random thoughts presented in the Psalms.

OKAY -- not a hard book to read... Should be much easier than some of the other choices still on my "to-do" list for successfully reading the entire Bible. (I still have all the "Pentateuch" books left... although Genesis is almost complete.)

This morning I picked up The NIV Study Bible expecting just a few short paragraphs telling of the Psalms. Instead, I found pages written and some of the information changed my thinking of "David as a blogger". Here are some exerpts...

The Psalter served as a the prayer book (book of prayer, praise and religious instruction)...

Psalm Types
(numbering added for emphasis)
1. Prayers of the individual (Ps. 3; 7-8)

2. Praise from the individual for God's saving help (Ps. 30; 34)
3. Prayers of the community (Ps. 12; 44; 79)
4. Praise from the community (Ps. 66; 75)
5. Confessions of confidence in the Lord (Ps. 11; 16; 52)
6. Hymns in praise of God's majesty and virtues (ps. 8; 19; 29; 65)
7. Hymns of celebrating God's universal reign (Ps. 47; 93-97)
8. Songs of Zion, city of God (Ps. 46; 48; 76; 84; 112; 126; 129; 137)
9. Royal psalms - by, for or concerning the king, the Lord's annointed (Ps. 2; 18; 20; 45; 72; 89; 110)
10 Pilgrimate psalms (Ps. 120-124)
11. Litergical songs (Ps. 15; 24; 68)
12. Didactic (instructional) songs (Ps. 1; 34; 37; 73; 112; 119; 128; 133)

The Psalter is for the most part a book of prayer and praise. It speaks to God in prayer and it speaks of God in praise -- also in professions of faith and trust... The Psalter is not a catechism of doctrine. Its "theology" is therefore not abstract or systematic but confessional and doxological."

At the core of the theology of the Psalter is the conviction that the gravitational center of life (of right human understanding, trust, hope, service, morality, adoration),but also history of the whole creation (heaven and earth) is God (
YAHWEH, "The Lord). He is the Great King over all, the One to whom all things are subject. He created all things and preserves them; they are the robe of glory with which he has clothed himself. Because he ordered them, they have a well-defined and true identity (no chaos there). Because he maintains them, they are sustained and kept secure from disruption, confusion or annihilation. Because he alone is sovereign God, they are govered by one hand and held in the service of one divine purpose. Under God creation is a cosmos -- an orderly and systematic whole. What we distingguish as "nature" and history had for them one Lord, under whose rule all things worked together. Through the creation the Great King's majestic glory is displayed. He is good (wise, righteous, faithful, amazingly benevolent and merciful -- evoking trust), and he is great (his knowledge, thoughts and works are beyond human comprehension -- evoking reverent awe). By his good and lordly rule he is shown to be the Holy One."

At this point, I can honestly say that I never imagined so much depth to the Psalms. The concept of David (or other authors) as simply bloggers jotting down their thoughts has come to a screeching halt. Instead, I am filled with wonder at learning more to the words and meaning shared.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Ok, it isn't Thursday, but I'm still thankful. Actually, I have been thinking of what am I thankful for -- that I could include something here no the board. Here goes.... I am thankful for:
1) No train at railroad tracks. On average, a train passes through town 1 every 15 minutes. Typically, there is one that gives everyone the opportunity to stop -- especially when running late... I was running late, so I figured I'd be stuck there for at least 5 minutes. No stop... I was on time for an appointment.
2) Glasses /contacts. With that resource I can see like a normal person. I recognize that being able to see 20 / 20 with visual correction does not necessarily make ME normal... But at least I can see...
3) Internet / web connection. Through this wonderful mode of communication I can "chat" with family and friends, teach courses from the comfort of my recliner, and search for answers to questions. Communication is wonderful!
4) Sewing machine, fabric, and patterns. I love to sew and am thankful that in 1979 (give or take a year) I was given a sewing machine. It was not a new machine, but pretty close. It is not any newer now, but it still works just fine. This summer I have actually done a few fun things without a time pressure. And, now I am in love with sewing all over again.
5) Slight breeze, sunshine, flowers, trees, birds, and bunny rabbits. Quite a list of beautiful things outside, and more could have been added, but I picked the first 6 that came to mind.
6) Rocking chairs and swings. Just sitting and rocking -- slowly moving back and forth can make time seem to stand still. That unhurried atmosphere that encourages simplicity is welcome when classes and committees and activities require thought and planning and coordination of efforts. But rocking does not require thinking or planning, but can simply be enjoyed for a moment or an hour.
7) Answer to prayer... Last Sunday I substituted for Connie at church and had my usual shaking like a leaf for the prelude and first hymn. This is typical, but believe me not the preferred for me or anyone close enough to see me. Our prayer of confession was, "Triune God, you dance among us in joy, inviting us into the mystery that you are. Yet we want understanding; we want answers. Forgive our thickness. Encircle us in your oneness, and teach us to trust you with abandon, as we invite others to join the dance; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." I thought of the Lord and that phrase "encircle us in your oneness..." And I prayed again. "Lord encircle me with your oneness that my hands would be still and my heart calm as I lift my music and heart before you."
And my hands were still. I played without any further shaking, and my heart was filled with joy as I knew the reality of God with me.
Thankfully, Connie is back for this Sunday. But now I know without a shadow of a doubt that God can do miracles -- even within and for me.

And I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not a dancer

Last night watching "Dance with the Stars" I realized that I am not a dancer. How did I figure that out? Well, you see, I just got my hair cut. Not short (well, OK, maybe short), but it is definitely not long and flowing such that when I move around the room in time with the music it flips easily from side to side....

So, nope, not a dancer.

Of course, I can't do those lovely graceful steps or light and bouncy around the room either, but that is another story in itself.

We'll just leave it that I am not a dancer, because my hair is short.

But what am I then? What label can I put on myself that would be a drawing card for conversation or for others to have something to talk about?

What would I want people to say? That I am a great mom? Great teacher? Wonderful listener? Quickly offers helping hands? Cheerful? Beautiful? (hahaha -- enough with what I MIGHT be...)

As I look at qualities or elements that are important to me, I realize that the one thing I hope people see is that I love God... And that I follow Him... And serve Him... That my life is not about me... But Him...

By God's grace, may I each day live such that others might see Him working in me. The church at Colossae was encouraged to "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Col. 1:9-12)

So... today I will not dance (with a star -- and be on TV), but I will dance in my heart for the Lord (even with short hair). May others see God's love in action -- through me... with short hair.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nor silver or gold...

Today's scripture reading included Acts 3:1-26, telling of Peter and John going into the temple. A crippled man sitting outside spoke to them, asking for money. But Peter, rather than reaching into his pocket, reached to him with words, saying, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazareen -- walk!" (Acts 3:6)

Peter saw an opportunity to reach out with Christ's love and healing of both physical and mental anguish - and the man was healed.

Thoughts flooded through my head.

Does God have lots of blessings for us? Does He have lots that He wants to give to us? What does Jesus Christ offer to us?

Here in acts we see healing in His name. We celebrate the Easter message with the vision of eternal life. Jesus says, "For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Through Jesus' death and resurrection, God has claimed us back to Him. For mental heath, we are offered peace. "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:7)

Then, I remember back to the story read as child about blessings -- you know, the beatitudes. Jesus himself offers to the crowd:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matt. 5:3-11)

I'll stop with that... but take a moment and look at the blessings that Jesus offered! To His listeners!

So, as a servant of Christ, I am recipient of lots from God. Wow!

Okay... so maybe I should stop right there with the message. Just take the good things and run.

Go home, sit on the couch like a queen, waiting for God to pour forth upon me...

Isn't that what all that I've shown above means? I am the recipient -- from God. He has gifts -- for me! Yipee!

Well... The thoughts in church didn't stop with those above. Instead, I thought of the word "relationship". The definition says, "the quality or state of being related; connection." So then I thought of "connection" -- what does that involve? Can I be lone and have a connection? Can this "connection" be one sided with one side doing all the work? The dictionary says,"to join or fasten; link; couple." At this point, I am thinking that God wants and will give me many things. But there is something required of me as well. I'm not a queen on the throne (or couch) just waiting for Him to serve me.

Instead, I looked up the word "relationship" and see that with God the relationship is entered in by my faith. He expressed His love for His people (Jews) through the covenant. And yes, we now have a new covenant through Jesus Christ. "The fulfillment of God's purposes of salvation expressed in the covenants of the OT, mediated by Jesus Christ and sealed in his blood. It is a covenant of grace, the benefits of which include forgiveness, a renewed relationship with God and, through the Holy Spirit, an inward transformation that enables obedience to its demands and so ensures that it will not again be broken." (Zondervan Bible Dictionary)

Again, I could stop right here. I have the good news of what I CAN HAVE.

But it just doesn't seem right. Yes, God has much for us. But we are in a relationship. I can't do all the taking...

So... what can I give back to the God above all Gods?
The first thing that came to mind is Jesus stating to the disciples the great commission. He told His followers to go into the world and make disciples. (Matt. 28:19)
When preparing for KIDS Club one night, I was talking with my daughter to get ideas. She asked me how the kids would put the message for our lesson into action? Our faith journey, relationship with God, our receiving from Him, is not just a one-way street. Instead, we need to put our faith in Him to action. Apply what we know and see and understand to actions or words that tell others the Good News.

If someone gives you something, what do you do in return? So, I ask you, now that we see all that God gives to us -- what do you offer Him in return?
Billy Graham said, "God has given us two hands -- one for receiving and the other for giving."
And Fr. Andrew said, "The highest love of all finds it fulfillment not in what it keeps but in what it gives."

What do you offer back to God?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Praise be to Him!

Mark 16:1-20

The Resurrection

1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.
2Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3They were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?"
4Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.
5Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.
6And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.
7"But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'"
8They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
9[Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.
10She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping.
11When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.
12After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country.
13They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.
The Disciples Commissioned
14Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
15And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
16"He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
17"These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;
18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
19So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
20And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.


Praise be to Him, the Father - Son and Holy Spirit -- now and forever! Amen!