Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Groaning Earth

It was April 29, 1965. It was also my junior year of high school.

The day began routinely enough, but it would not remain so. By mid-morning I was settled in Biology Class, having made my usual morning meander by bus from the East side of the city to the school located on the city's North side. It was my daily routine for four years.

There was nothing routine about this particular day.

From somewhere deep in the bowels of the earth came the most hideous sound that morning. It was startling in it's grotesqueness; a noise heretofore unknown to me and the plaid-clad girls sitting alongside me.

With wide-eyed perplexity, we felt the earth heaving beneath our feet. Simultaneously the school alarm sounded. With surprising calm, we made our way down the hallway that would lead us out of the building; away from falling debris and shattering windows. As we made our way, I thought to myself how odd that the hallway itself seemed to inhale & exhale. Locker doors sprung open, as if they'd been shaken to erupt like a pop can.

The earthquake that day registered a mere 6.5 on the Richter Scale, but I will never forget it or the eeriness of it. It's heaving & pitching, and the sense that nothing underfoot was stable gave new meaning to the word fear.

When all was again quiet - - and oh how quiet it became - - the school had suffered little damage. We girls were shaken and distraught, afraid of the aftershocks we were told MIGHT follow. Everyone was sent home, and until my mother drew me into her arms my very soul continued to quake all throughout my home-bound journey.

It would mark the first, though not the last of my encounters with nature's fury. Some years later, in May of 1980, Mount St. Helen's would erupt; and with it yet another volley of nature's scorn.

Today my heart aches for the peoples of Haiti, and now Chile. Within weeks, each of these populated regions have suffered nature's wrath. Old and young alike are living with that quaking of soul brought about by so devastating an event.

Nature is more-and-more intentional with it's groanings, longing for it's redemption. Some days I know exactly how it feels.

For the earnest expectation of the creation
eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

For the creation was subjected to futility,
not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
because the creation itself also
will be delivered from the bondage of corruption
into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

For we know that the whole
creation groans and labors with birth pangs
together until now.

Romans 8:19-22

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Set Apart

My friend Cindy left the confines of her life here two years ago, having succumbed to a vicious battle with breast cancer. She lost that skirmish, but certainly not the war. Never did she doubt the outcome for a moment, knowing full well that her absence from the body meant her presence with the Lord.

Cindy, a PK (Preacher's Kid), was raised with some biblical understandings that didn't come to me until much later in life. One in particular stands out, and it was from her that it made it's amazing way to my personal understanding.

The subject? Holiness.

I confess straight up that my lifelong view of holiness has been largely negative. It was not something I desired, much less sought because - in my book - it was sickeningly austere; and marked with all manner of audacious self-righteousness, if not utterly useless behaviors.

Then came that fateful day when Cindy and I were chatting casually (no doubt during one of our many lunches or shopping expeditions). In passing, she mentioned that she knew from her earliest recollections that she had been "set apart". Her knowing had arrived with her salvation; and that had arrived while she was yet a young girl.

I thought it a curious statement, so I asked her:
Could you explain that further? What do you mean by "set apart".

In her simple & gracious way, Cindy connected the dots from "set apart" to "holiness". In that one moment it all began to get crystal clear for me as Cindy spoke of the incredible design of it. To her, holiness was anything BUT austere or audacious. It was lavish; a special placement - - as if in one fell swoop she'd been moved from poverty to privilege.

Cindy had no mis-directed beliefs to overcome. She was simply made an overcomer.

It was soon evident: Holiness was not AT ALL what I'd thought it to be.

Needless to say, the subject has not only been made clearer, but much dearer as well. Gone are the vestiges of my prior views. You might say a huge Paradigm Shift took place that day; and to this day I thank Cindy for telling me the truth. It was - and is - truth born in the very Word of God.

No doubt you've known these things for umpty-umpty seasons, but here's what I learned about the grand transaction that takes place when set apart.

In 1 Peter 1:13-16 the apostle tells us: 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" Peter is quoting from Leviticus 11:44 and Leviticus 19:2.

In order for me to be holy
like/as He is, I must at least have a rudimentary understanding of what His holiness looks like. Passages like 1 Samuel 2:2 and Isaiah 6:3 are just two of many examples demonstrating it - His absolute perfection.

He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him (Psalm 40:5). His holiness pervades His entire being and shapes all His attributes. His love is a holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, and even His anger and wrath are holy anger and holy wrath.

How then, being an imperfect mortal, can I be like that; like Him?

First ... it is He Who does the setting apart, the making of holy - not me.

I understand it better when first I consider the instructions given to the nation of Israel; then later to all believers.

When God told Israel to be holy in Leviticus 11 and 19, He was instructing them to
be distinct from the other nations by giving them specific regulations to govern their lives. Israel is God's chosen nation and God has set them apart from all other people groups. They are His special people, and consequently they were given standards that God wanted them to live by so the world would know they belonged to Him.

When Peter repeats the Lord's words in 1 Peter 1:16, he is talking specifically to believers.
As believers, we need to be "set apart" from the world unto the Lord. We need to be living by God's standards, not the world's.

Immediately we understand why friendship with the world's ways makes us an enemy of God. The world is not set apart; and the world's ways even less so! It and they are assigned to the ignoble.

God isn't calling us to be perfect in the absolute sense, but
to be distinct from the world. 1 Peter 2:9 describes believers as "a holy nation."

It is a fact! We are separated from the world; we need to live out that reality in our day-to-day lives, which Peter tells us how to do in 1 Peter 1:13-16.

If we truly are believers, then
we recognize that our position in Christ automatically sets us apart from the world (1 Peter 2:9).

The day will come when Cindy and I will again take up this topic, for both she and I are set apart for His eternity. Come on along!

Resource: Got Questions?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mixed Signals

PREFACE: I totally get that this might not make sense to some -- maybe even many. That's OK, because I wrote it as it came - - both from & for my Audience of One.

Escalate: to increase in extent, volume, number, amount, intensity, or scope

Escalator: a power-driven set of stairs arranged like an endless belt that ascend or descend continuously; an upward course.

Mother used to work for a department store, Rhodes Brothers. It was a classy place, much as Nordstrom is today. From the moment you'd enter their massive revolving doors the smells alone announced something grand: the aromas of fine cologne mixed with equally fine chocolate, topped with a layer of leather. Nothing equaled it.

What great fun it was to visit her. She'd often buy me lunch in their dining room, where we big girls were served as royalty.

Sometimes we'd stop by the candy department to select a savory treasure. I'm not certain which I enjoyed more: the candy or the little tissue bag that was all mine until I'd savored it's contents into extinction.

But it was the escalator - above all - that captivated me. I'm certain it was among the first of my life adventures now that I recall the sheer terror it represented from a child's perspective.

Fear gripped me when I'd consider how all those moving parts could, most likely, devour me should I place my foot or hand in the wrong place. How brave was I to face down those fears (all the while gripped firmly & securely in mother's hand); and how exhilarating the climb as we advanced higher and higher; doing it all over again as we'd make our way, floor-after-floor, until we reached the pinnacle - the fourth floor - where mother had her office.

We escalated. It was on purpose.

Having gone up the escalator, we'd likewise descend via the same people-moving mechanism. It never occurred to me to refer to the going-down maneuver as de-escalating, but that's exactly what it was. Even so, the term escalator was applied to both. Huh?

I heard the term "to escalate" just the other day; on the news. It was probably associated with war, or some Congressional dispute, or Iran's reckless determination. I made a mental note, just as I envisioned my escalator-riding days of old:

Words and actions are escalators too.

On the one hand they advance upwards; on the other, downwards. In either case, we often call them the same thing. They are not.

That's not to say that descending is bad, in and of itself. Afterall, gravity is a good thing; so too are ladders and roller coasters. It is to say that it's not at all the same thing as ascending.

I remember hearing a song by the group Truth long ago. Titled Living Life Upside-Down, the chorus is all about the business of escalation (or is it de-escalation?).

It comes to mind today as I consider just how the upward and the downward have exchanged places on so many levels. Many of the things that are truly upward & uplifting are spoken of as downward; and an even greater number of things that are downward & degrading (if not altogether dangerous) are spoken of as upward.

The ride/slide down has become synonymous with the ride to higher realms - as if they're the same thing. They are not.

What if we’ve fallen to the bottom of the well

Thinking we’ve risen to the top of a mountain

What if we’re knocking at the gates of hell

Thinking we’re heaven bound

What if we spend our lives thinking of ourselves

When we should have been thinking of each other

What if we reach up and touch the ground

To find we’re living life upside down

See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice.
No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected.
the noble man makes noble plans,
and by noble deeds he stands
(or rides UP the escalator).

Isaiah 32: 1, 5, 8

Since I have yet to master the art of uploading video as a direct embed, you can hear the song, Living Life Upside Down, by clicking here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Boundary Lines & Pleasant Places

Lord, You have assigned to me my portion
and my cup; You have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in
pleasant places; surely I have a
delightful inheritance!

Psalm 16:5-6

She kept it for many years, the little pink dress that most certainly had been my first; even, most likely, my Christening gown.

I can picture it still: a frilly organza item trussed in embroidered flowers and lace, tucked securely in tissue among her treasures. It never lost her scent either - - a rare blend of Ivory & castile soaps; a hint of White Shoulders cologne.

I know, I collected it often to adorn my dollies, or to ponder the wonders of infancy; and on each such occasion she'd retrieve it - with nary a scolding word - to tuck it away among her treasures once again.

It's gone now; lost to that other era - the one of my childhood; and so is she.

None of it's forgotten, for now it remains among my own treasury.

February 21, 1948

My boundary lines did, indeed, fall in a pleasant place that fateful day. Born to Helen & James Wells - 42 & 46 respectively - when they had long forgotten diapers & crib sheets; the youngest of four girls.

I cannot don my birthday garb today without going there - the place of my birth - to give thanks for the boundaries that have allowed me to remain in a pleasant place.

It's true, that while I've forsaken their boundaries for even sturdier ones, what was given to me in childhood made the transfer oh-so much easier. It wasn't so much a forsaking of, but a completion in living securely.

In recent years my birth in 1948 has been especially precious to me given the other birth that year: The Nation of Israel. From dry bones to a fully en-fleshed body, they were granted new life in the most amazing, the most providential of ways. Their inheritance and mine is a delight; and in my heart they are forever connected.

What a lovely day to have been born - to be, and to have been loved - and to give thanks for all that is yet to come.

In Him, both my lot and my inheritance is secure!

The best awaits.

You have made known to me the path of life;
You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
with eternal pleasures as Your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

Friday, February 19, 2010

Say Yes to the Dress

Have you ever been completely unhinged when the full meaning of something comes into clear, or - should I say - clearer view?

It's really the experience of the student - be they in institutions of higher learning or living out their daily undertakings - when layer-upon-layer of knowledge merges with understanding and - VOILA! - wisdom is born - jaw-dropping wisdom that never ceases if/when we become aged. We are forever students of something - be it the noble or the ignoble.

That's how I feel whenever I dig deeper into the layers of God's word; especially so when it pertains to the symbolism in the parables & teachings of Jesus. While they're pivotal & pointed all by themselves, when taken in two's, or ten's ... they become the very meat (in contrast to milk) by which we grow.

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 1 Corinthians 3:2

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation ... 1 Peter 2:2

... by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need
milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12-14

It's a meaty subject, as they say, but the implications for us where the
Wedding Feast of the Lamb is concerned are simply too incredible to pass by. I'd like to keep this brief, and I'll try; but the subject is so rich & amazing that I simply must capture it in full array.

Many of you already know how this unfolds, so bear with me.

I go to prepare a place for you .... in My Father's house ....

The wise (virgins), however, took oil in jars along with their lamps ...

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

My sheep listen to my voice ... My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.

These are but a few of the layers that are easily connected to Jesus' promises to His Jewish disciples, and to us - the Jewish & Gentile believers through the ages. When sewn together in the context of the Jewish wedding customs in the time of Christ, they become a portrait so splendid it's difficult to consider it without dumbstruck awe. But His Jewish audience "got it", and so can I.

The sad thing to me is that so many religious practices take bits & pieces - some quite beautiful all by themselves - and weave a tapestry of tradition & doctrine that is far from a tether to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Often out of context, they become the ritual & rote of religion, with little resemblance to the deeper Jewish roots that undergird every single bit of the Canon, and every single one of Jesus' teachings. But I digress ...

Of that feast, His wedding celebration, the key elements are these (but oh-so much more, so I've included links below if you want to read/study further).

First, the marriage contract was consummated between the parents of the Bride and the Bridegroom. This was called the betrothal period, during which time the Bridegroom prepared a place for his Bride in His Father's house, promising to return to collect her when all was in order. Even he didn't know when that would be, for the timing was up his Father.

Second, the Father sends the Bridegroom, accompanied by his male friends in a torchlit parade through the streets, to get his Bride at her home. He was to arrive at the midnight hour, with the Bride knowing what would take place (but not when); so she would be ready with her maidens at all times. At her Bridegroom's summons, she and her maidens would join the parade that would end up at the Bridegroom's home - the Father's house.

was the marriage supper itself, which might go on for days.

In our Christian worldview, these dots connect like this:

The first phase was consummated on earth when each individual member of the Church (the body of Christ made up of true believers), placed his faith & trust in Christ as Savior. The dowry paid to the Bridegroom’s Parent (God the Father) would be the shed blood of Christ on the cross on the Bride’s behalf. Now the person/Church would belong to Christ in the sense of betrothal and, like the wise virgins in the parable, all would be watching and waiting for the appearance of the Bridegroom (the Second Coming). Neither they nor anyone else could snatch the Bride from the Bridegroom's hand!

The second phase symbolizes the Removal of the Church when Christ comes to claim His Bride and take her to the Father's house.

The marriage supper then follows as the third and final step, which is yet to come as we read in chapter 19 of the Book of Revelation.

We come away with so much more than understanding, and I dare say so much more than our salvation (as if that alone weren't enough!!).

We come away with a ring on our left hand; a promise of a place in the Father's house; and an expectant anticipation of the midnight call that's coming - a call that'll rock our world for eternity ..

“Blessed are those who are
invited to the marriage supper
of the Lamb”

Revelation 19:9.

Lambert Dolfin
Berean Christian Studies
Judaism 101: Weddings
Jewish Wedding Traditions

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Drop Dead Serious

Most days find me wearing a grin. It's such a lovely adornment - an accessory that matches everything, whether it's jeans or a dress; pajamas or hiking gear. Better still, it never competes with cologne or color because, like a mood ring, it tailors it's scent & hue to whatever one's wearing; and for whatever the occasion.

The lighter side of life has long intrigued me. Perhaps the impetus is a sick sense of humor, or a stubborn insistence that something funny
must exist - embedded - in nearly every life situation. Or maybe it's just because laughter makes even the lackluster, lustrous.

Whether alone or in the company of others, sometimes my funny bone (who made that phrase up, anyway?) is simply smitten. On occasion I'll laugh out loud even when I'm alone; and even THAT makes me laugh.

That was not always the case. My sense of humor wasn't terribly acute in the distant yesteryears of my life. But having married the Harbinger of Blarney (with the last name Flanagan, no less!!!), I had to get over that fairly early on.

Now it seems there's blarney everywhere (I actually look for it), along with a good many reasons for a smile, if not uproarious laughter. I am blessed to live and work alongside people of good humor; people that help me mine life in much the same way one might pan for gold. What's better, or richer than shared laughter?

There are many things in life that I take drop dead serious. Myself is not one of them.

A number of my life-experiences have come on the heals of trouble. Some of that trouble called for tears; some the deepest of heartache. So I certainly do not mean to make light of life's heavier side. Sometimes laughter retreats and gathers dust while one copes, or endures, or suffers long.

Yet it's so very refreshing when those times of good humor remain or return, when I again realize I am safe in His arms, and free to be the child He would have me be.

Now that's something to take drop dead serious!

(Jesus )said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. " Matthew 18:3

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. ~Victor Borge

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die. ~Abraham Lincoln

A smile confuses an approaching frown.
-- Author Unknown

In the book of life,
the answers aren't in the back.
Charlie Brown

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

About That "Y"

It was just a month ago that I shared about the approaching "Y" in my life. There have been many such episodes - some grand & exhilarating; others tame & mundane. In every instance the "Y" means change; and that means something new is about to arrive. I've held my breath on occasion, for certain of the "Y"s have been rather scary.

I don't mean to be enigmatic; there's really no reason to be. You see, next week I turn 62; and while that's of no particular note in itself, it represents a passage point
, much like turning 13, or 21, or 30, or 75.

Yet this particular passage point entails, for me, a more robust searching of my heart than routine.

You see, with the advancing of age I have come to recognize the decision points along the way - many that crystallized with 20/20 hindsight!. These are, most often, associated with the "Y"; and they require some intentional planning.

How wonderful it would be to advance with 20/20 foresight!

Should the "Y" take a sharp rise along a high, steep, winding mountain path I'll need to prepare quite differently than I would if the "Y" leads downward, into a refreshing mountain meadow.

I have worked all my life. I say "worked", but truth be told I've had the great pleasure of sharing office-adventures with the best & the brightest. Work has been a hobby and a delight to me, with only a rare blip of consternation along the way.

What I'm sensing as I approach this "Y" is change in the work landscape for me. Will it entail a high mountain trek or a slow meander along the meadow floor? I think I know, yet I stand at the "Y" in quietness & peace, waiting for that sure word that will advance me in one direction or the other.

Choices. They are myriad. I hope I'm never heard to accuse another of having made choices for me, nor grumbling about having somehow been made a victim of life (the blame game).

I approach this "Y" - this new season of life - with tremendous anticipation and joy. I will either go along the heights, or beside the quiet waters. Either way, I am comforted by the rod & staff that ensure my peace; the right hand that steadies my gait.

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:7-10

Sunday, February 14, 2010

With all My Heart

When it comes to combining worship with an offering of love from the very depths of the heart, this is one amazing song! And this on Valentine's Day to boot. He is worthy!!!


With all my heart
I want to love You, Lord
With all my heart
I want to serve You
With every day that passes by I want to leave a mark
I want to love You with all my heart

With all my soul
I want to love You, Lord
With all my soul
I want to serve You
With every feeling You give to make me whole
I want to love You with all my soul

‘Cause You are worthy of every breath I breathe
You are holy, oh, beyond compare
And Lord, I wanna be an offering
And live the words from this simple prayer

With all my strength
I want to love You, Lord
With all my strength
I want to serve You
With every breath I take and every choice I make
I want to love You with all my strength

With every thought I find stirring deep inside
I want to love You with all my mind

I want to give You all I have within me, Lord
Help me to live the words from this simple prayer

I want to love You, Lord
With all my heart

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Heaven's Armies

Lord of Heaven's Armies
God of the Armies of Heaven

Lord Almighty
Lord of Heaven's Hosts

With the release of the blockbuster Legion, once again angels are getting their day in the public arena. It is the latest offering from the dark side.

For our viewing pleasure, a dramatic adventure has been crafted; and that by skewing the pages of the scriptural text to give angels a footing on par with God (where have we heard THAT story before?).

Angels, unless of the demonic class, do not seek to override God's purposes.

I realize Cupid is a featured hallmark of lovers far & near - and who among us doesn't know how vital is he (or is it she?) to Valentine's Day? He is known to besot those struck by his arrow; an arrow that not only pierces the heart, but engenders a groundswell of love as it makes it's mark. We do like our angels to be cute & clever & winsome.

Angels are not babies; nor do/can they cause us to love one another. They are not causative agents of their own doing.

Too, there are those that would make angels out to be as we are, giving them human characteristics both in appearance and in range of feeling. We think of the beloved Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life, and we are all schmaltzy. We do like our angels to be safe.

Angels are not human; nor are they earning/working their way into God's favor nor ours.

The scriptures give us plenty of examples of people being visited by an angel or angelic forces, and some even fall at their feet in worship. We are tempted to do likewise, ascribing to them great honor & awe. The angels themselves insist that we do not.

Angels are not the chosen/saints of God; nor are any of them interested in being worshiped (apart from their demonic counterparts, who absolutely insist upon worship!).

I've been a little surprised by the number of people that tell of a deceased loved one having become their angel; and this from believer and non-believer alike. No doubt it's of great comfort. We do like our angels to be familiar.

Angels are not born of, or from the death of a mortal.

"I am convinced that these heavenly beings exist and that they provide unseen aid on our behalf.
  • I do not believe in angels because someone has told me about a dramatic visitation from an angel, impressive as such rare testimonies may be.
  • I do not believe in angels because UFOs are astonishingly angel-like in some of their reported appearances.
  • I do not believe in angels because ESP experts are making the realm of the spirit world seem more and more plausible.
  • I do not believe in angels because of the sudden worldwide emphasis on the reality of Satan and demons.
  • I do not believe in angels because I have ever seen one--because I haven't.
  • I believe in angels because the Bible says there are angels; and I believe the Bible to be the true Word of God" (1)
Millions of beautiful and mighty angels carry out God's commands. They sweep with great speed throughout heaven and earth. They are better organized than the armies of Caesar, Alexander, or Napoleon. They organized into cherubim (Gen. 3:24), seraphim (Isa. 6:2-3), living creatures (Rev. 4:6-8), and thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers (Col. 1:16). They are led by the archangel Michael (Dan. 10:21; Jude 9), who is assisted by Gabriel (Dan. 8:16). (2)

Don't ask me why I felt compelled to post this today. I just did. The more I read God's word, the more keenly aware am I that we are surrounded by heavenly armies & chariots of fire that are commanded by the Lord of Heaven's Armies. What an incredible comfort!

On the flipside, I also know there's a lot - and I do mean a LOT - out there that is compelling, captivating, titillating, believable, and just plain wrong. Without firm footing in God's true, sure word we are left vulnerable, if not gullible.

I needn't know any more about that vast heavenly force than the scriptures reveal about them. Their Commander - The Almighty - has it, and them handled.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus
as Lord, continue to live in him ...
See to it that no one takes you captive
through hollow and deceptive philosophy
which depends on human tradition and
the basic principles of this world
rather than on Christ.

God made you alive with Christ.
He forgave us all our sins,
having canceled the written code,
with its regulations ...,
he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross.

Do not let anyone who delights in
false humility and the worship of angels

disqualify you for the prize.
Such a person goes into great
detail about what he has seen,
and his unspiritual mind puffs him up
with idle notions.
He has lost connection with the Head,
from whom the whole body, supported and
held together by its ligaments and sinews,
grows as God causes it to grow.

Colossians 2 (parts):

(1) ([Billy Graham, Angels, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975, pp. 14-15).
(2) John MacArthurr - Study -God's Invisible Army

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Collecting Valentines

As Valentine's Day approaches, I'm rounding up as many of my personal Valentine's as possible. This collection is the short version.
Heading the pack is Sassy Granddad, aka Wonder Boy - my companion, cohort and cherished love since I was 16, and husband of 43 years!

Perhaps my greatest of earthly treasures are these, the Sassy Three that grew beneath my own heart, and remain their still ... Brad, Molly & Kelly

Here's Kelly & Katrina (pregnant); Molly & Tom

Next comes the Super Sassies (minus Katie), taken a few years ago. (l-r, Allie, Megan, Molly, Brad, Rylie, Kelly, Katrina; floor Erik, Kelly & Kaden)

Here's the now-Sassy Seventeen Katie ... Watch out world!

With Tom, we get two extra: Megan & Ava!

Just a bit more bragging as I share the Sassy
Six (soon to be Seven) ...

And certainly I can't leave out the Sassy Sisters.

Check out this "oldie" with our mother ... (l-r, Barb, Dolores, Carol, Mom, Me), and a more recent one (Me, Dolores, Barb & Carol) ...

Two of three and their spouses at Christmas: Barb & Jim, Hal & Carol)

I dare not leave out our Sassy Sidekicks - friends, surrogate children, traveling buddies, pastor ... Greg & Lori

And I simply must include a few of my Sassy Small Group Sisters:

Don't you just love photos,
AND Valentine's?!!!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

His People & Their Land

Just a tiny spec of land on the global mass we call Earth, Israel could not be featured more prominently in today's news were it a planet itself!

One of it's supporters has given it a designation that's as much prophetic as it is descriptive: The Epicenter. Not AN epicenter, but THE epicenter. Striking.

I realize many people take little of note of Israel's importance beyond it's democratic government, or the current hatred it engenders among many of it's neighbors, if not a wider global community - and how that engendering just might possibly, perhaps, maybe, somehow relate to us, the individual, or the nation we claim as our own.

Seems everyone's got a plan and purpose for Israel and, I dare say, it often does not include good stuff.

Too, there are those that see little value to Israel in Biblical terms, having decided that the Church long ago replaced Israel in the grand scheme of things.

I realize how such doctrinal beliefs formed. After all, it was many years - hundreds and thousands of years - that Israel in general, and the Jews in particular, were dispersed among the nations. There was no sign of a nation, much less a national presence on the land distinctly divided by none other than God Himself.

No wonder folks decided it was a nation utterly forgotten by God. Until, that is, 1948 ...

Well, Paul had it right even if we lost our way:

Did God reject His people?
By no means!

God did not reject his people, whom He foreknew.
... at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to
fall beyond recovery?
Not at all!
Rather, because of their transgression,
salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.
I do not want you to be ignorant of
this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited:

has experienced a hardening in part

until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
And so all Israel will be saved,
as it is written:

"The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins."

Romans 11 (parts)
(Also Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9; Jer. 31:33,34)

I'm pretty fond of blessings. I sure hope this country is too!.

"I will make you (Abraham/Israel) into
a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you
Genesis 12:2-3

What amazing days are these!

May He grant wisdom to our leaders, and may they/we stand firmly with & behind Israel.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mathetes - Introducing Some Encouragement

Honest and truly, I didn't make up this word:
Manthano. I discovered it or, rather, it discovered me. It showed up one day here - on my blog; left by a gracious guest I've come to know as Luther.

Being the word hoarder that I am, I was intrigued by his signature. As Luther explains it, it means "learner". It's what motivates his blogging - his thought sharing - at the site he's labeled Encouragement. (Taken from Hebrews 10:24-25)

I dug a bit deeper, and discovered that
Mathetes is the plural form; meaning disciples, or apprentices. Mathetes numerous, or Mathano singular - are known by their quest to increase knowledge; to hear and be informed; and to practice what they've learned (in the sense of being in the habit of).

Straight away I can hear the Lord Himself saying:
Let him who has ears to hear, hear. (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8, Luke 14, Revelation 1-3).

OK, now back to my new-found friend who is no longer so new-found.

Over the months I've gotten a glimpse of Luther's heart, and I know what a struggle blogging has been for him. It's not that he hasn't anything to say (trust me, he produces a bounty!), but his struggle is the same one you and I have had on more than one occasion with questions like:
  • Why am I doing this?
  • How will this honor the Lord?
  • Is this worth the time & effort it takes?
  • Does anyone care?
Luther would be the first to tell you he's not a young man, nor is he a learned man in the sense of degrees & credentials. His is not a fancy domain, nor does it contain the sort of decor we ladies embellish our blog homes with. It's a humble home, and I can tell you it's humble fare, containing the heart of a child, and the wisdom that is born of a diet on God's own word.

Do yourself a favor; pay a visit to Manthano. You'll know you're in good company and - no doubt - be glad you're among the Mathetes.

"let us consider how to stir up one
another to love and good works,
... encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see
the Day drawing near."

Heb.10:24,25 RSV

Friday, February 5, 2010

Playing It Out

Anger is one letter short of danger
~Author Unknown

In hushed tones that could only be the Lord's, the question dangled before me:

How do you want this to play out?

I awoke that day with a certain unease. As the morning progressed I realized it had much (everything) to do with a long ago hurt, a betrayal.

There was now a new situation; one with a familiar bent - a deja vu, if you will - that disturbed my soul to it's very core! The scar tissue of that long ago wound burned, as if it had only formed but a few short weeks ago.

Both my head and my heart readied themselves for battle. As my thoughts progressed I found little relief from the internal conflict raging within. It seemed to grow as the seconds passed; and with it's growth my sense of well-being vanished.

Why is it when one emotion threatens to flood, it unleashes a dam of all other emotions along with it - most of them cruel? Anger begets self-righteousness; self-righteousness begets worry; worry begets sorrow; sorrow begets self-pity. They don't always arrive in that order, but when they do arrive - in whatever order - they assert dominion.

That's when the whisper interrupted the conflict within: How do you want to play this out?

Before I continue, let me confess that my way as a young woman (last week) was to react first, then consider how I could have said/done something better, or different. I call it my "clamoring phase". Tactics include (but are not limited to ...) open/overt or internal/covert
aggression (the silent sort, ostensibly the martyr syndrome), accusations, faulty fact-finding, resentment, anxiety, defensiveness, a bunker mentality and attack-dog approach.

I can also tell you it's a ridiculously foolish method of resolving conflict.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4

"Gentle & quiet spirit", huh? That, in my opinion, is the exact opposite of "clamor"; and it's exactly what I needed in those moments of conflict, when my flesh longed to react in a way my spirit could not abide.

So I answered that question, "How do you want to play this out?", with this:

"With a gentle and quiet spirit, Lord; one that allows me peace instead of conflict, and that brings Your approval, and well as honor to Your name. More than vindication or retribution, I want to trust You to have both my front and my back; and to bring about resolution in Your way, and in Your time."

The particulars aren't all that important, but I can tell you that within minutes my peace had returned, and within another 48 hours the unsettling matter that had disturbed it/me in the first place was resolved. What's more, the resolution came in such a way as to be undeniably God-crafted. It left me speechless.

I'd like to think my days of clamoring are over once-and-for-all. Likely they're not. But what I do know is this: my days of living with and in the gentle & quiet spirit that is so precious to Him are increasing - not because I'm so good, but because He is!

He alone is able to bring about the conditions for "gentle & quiet" if I'll but cease to clamor.

It's how I want to play it out.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
You will revive me;
You will stretch out Your hand
Against the wrath of my enemies,
And Your right hand will save me.
The LORD will perfect that which concerns me ...
Psalm 138

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Growing Conditions

Fertile or fallow? That is the question.

What can be gleaned (
good farming term) from God's dealings with Jacob in particular, and Israel in general? Certainly far more than I can cover here, for never has He forsaken them - proof positive that His promises to Abraham are sure, true, everlasting. So are they - His promises - to me/us.

How refreshing! How comforting!

Even so, there is danger afoot where fallow hearts are concerned (
been there; done that!) ...

O Israel,” says the L
“if you wanted to return to me, you could.
You could throw away your detestable idols
and stray away no more.
Then you would be a blessing to
the nations of the world,
and all people would come
and praise my name.”
This is what the L
ord says to the
people of Judah and Jerusalem:

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!
Do not waste your good seed among thorns.
O people of Judah and Jerusalem,
surrender your pride and power.
Change your hearts before the L
ord ...
Jeremiah 4:2-7

Fallow ground is:
  • cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season
  • the tilling of land without sowing it for a season
Although the following promise is given specifically to Jacob (and wow, hasn't He kept it, even though an even greater restoration awaits?!), it is a promise I often appropriate for myself, and for those I love, especially when the fallow ground of my heart or theirs appears blighted by drought or fruitlessness.

This is what the LORD says—
he who made you,
who formed you in the womb,

and who will help you ...

Do not be afraid,

O Jacob, m
y servant,
whom I have chosen.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing o
n your descendants.

They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.

Isaiah 44:2-4

In God's agricultural business, the best conditions for growth have never changed. He alone knows what amendments (the stinky stuff) are necessary to render fallow ground fertile. What's more, and depending on what crop He has sown, there will be great differences in both the amount of time and effort necessary to feed, water, weed, fertilize, prune and bring to harvest.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have
crucified the sinful nature
with its passions and desires.
Since we live by the Spirit,
let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 4:22-25

P.S. Why is it that one's growth so often requires fertilizer; and picks up pace in such stinky places?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nifty Nostrums

I stumbled across this term recently, and it immediately made me grin. Why? Because it sounds like something I might make up; one of those liberated words and meanings you'd never in a million years find in Merriam's arsenal.

Nifty nostrums is ... well, just plain sassy!

At first the term brought to mind Nasturtiums - those flimsy little wisps that look like weeds, and stink to high heavens!
Then I thought of noster - "ours" - from Latin (like in Pater Noster, Our Father).

Eventually I made my way to Nordstroms - the high end Seattle-based store that one rarely can afford.

When finally I defined a nostrum, it piqued my interest even further. It means:

1 : a medicine of secret composition
recommended by its preparer
but usually without scientific
proof of its effectiveness
2 : a usually questionable remedy or scheme

The Medical Dictionary is far less kind, and quick to label it quackery.

So now I'm left to wonder just how, exactly, does a nostrum become nifty? Afterall, if it's connected to the questionable, then certainly it's anything BUT.

Off to my medicine cabinet I go. What might it contain that I've self-prescribed, and that has become my own personal stash of nifty nostrums (plural) - - prescriptions that have all the appearances of good but all the
bunk of quackery?

Do not let anyone who delights
in false humility

and the worship of angels
disqualify you for the

Such a person goes into great detail about

what he has seen,
and his unspiritual mind puffs

him up with idle notions (aka schemes).
He has lost connection

with the Head, from whom the whole body,
supported and held together by its ligaments
and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles

of this world, why, as though you still belonged
to it, do you submit to its rules:
"Do not handle!
Do not taste!
Do not touch!"?

These are all destined to perish with use,
because they are based on
human commands

and teachings (traditions)

Such regulations (
aka nifty nostrums)
indeed have an appearance of wisdom,
with their self-imposed worship,
their false humility and their
harsh treatment
of the body,
but they lack any value ...
Colossians 2:18-23

I guess there really isn't such a thing as a nifty nostrum - they all lack any value!