Saturday, April 30, 2011

Life According to Baby Blue Eyes

Hi!  I'm Kole.  
Sassy's my Granny and
she lets me do anything I want to ,
watches me closely so I don't do stuff I'm not supposed to.
But she said I could be her guest blogger today 
and tell you about my world. 

It's her world too.

I like Papa Bear.  Grandma got him for
Grandpa when my oldest brother was my age
nearly 15 years ago ...

I hope Grandma's not watching cuz
I think this might be something fun for me ...

Mmmmm ... this must do something to that other thing ...
Maybe if I touch it I can find out "what?"

Oh; I get it.  Daddy's helping Grandpa pressure wash the driveway!

My Grandma & Grandpa live here now.

This is where I'll be playing this summer:  Grandma's backyard.

My mom and brother love Grandpa (and so do I!!)

My other Grandpa & Grandma love me too.

Oh boy, a box!  Maybe someone will give me a ride?

My kitchen is always full of people & food.  This was Easter.

My cousin and brother torment Grandma, but I don't.

Grandpa and I are forever pals.

Auntie Molly is Grandma's daughter.  They smile at me a lot.
I love them.

This is Nana Leslie; ANOTHER Grandma who loves me!
She made sure I found LOTS of eggs on Easter.

My oldest brother is so-o-o-o funny.  So's my daddy!!!

Grandma calls me Baby Blue Eyes.

I have to run now before Grandma catches me doing stuff I'm not supposed to.
She's fast, but I'm faster!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scenes from a Sabbatical


1:a fortified place

2a : a place of security or survival
What joy has been my sabbatical!  It's contained a huge spiritual component, but one of industry as well.  Hubby and I have focused our energies on yet another move; and it's with great relief that I report that we are 90% settled.  
This has also been a time to pause & rewind as I announced on April 9.  In the nearly three weeks since, I've re-discovered the joy of some old things and added the joy of some new things.  I am challenged.  I am excited. 
As is often the case when I begin digging around in God's word, a new concept begins to emerge as a recurring theme.  The subject of strongholds is one such emergent.  I hope to write more about scenes from a sabbatical, but for now let me just share this:
We are either a victim or victor where strongholds are concerned. 
It depends on Who/what has the strong hold ... 
We either hide from Him or in Him.
‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
I am about to desecrate My sanctuary—
the stronghold in which you take pride,
the delight of your eyes,
the object of your affection. 
Ezekiel 24:21
The Lord is like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel.
He has swallowed up all her palaces
and destroyed her strongholds. 
Lamentations 2:5
An enemy will overrun your land,
pull down your strongholds
and plunder your fortresses 
Amos 3:11

OR ...

David sang to the LORD the words of this song ...
"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; 
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation. 
 He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
from violent people you save me.
2 Samuel 22:1-3  

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble. 
Psalm 9:9

Of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation—
 whom shall I fear?
of whom shall I be afraid? 
Psalm 27:1

The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
He is their stronghold in time of trouble. 
Psalm 37:39

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds
2 Corinthians 10:4

I look forward to getting around to visiting each of you in the days to come.  I've missed you, and I'm eager to catch up on your lives.  You are such a blessing to me!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Please Pray for Nadia

Eddie & Jeanie are dear, beloved friends from Arizona (and boy, can he sing!!).  Their precious 3 year old, Nadia, is undergoing cancer treatments for Acute Leukemia, and I'm rallying the forces to pray on her behalf. 

You can read about Nadia story's on Mommy Jeanie's blog:  Nadia the Beautiful.  If you do, be sure to leave a comment.

Blessings for a memorable & inspiring Resurrection weekend.
He is alive!  And because He lives, we can face tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pause & Rewind

Do you ever feel like you've lost your focus?  I do.  I was startled this week to realize how quickly I sign on to my computer in the mornings, whereas there was a day when I'd do no such thing until I'd spent time in God's word.  Oh, I still do that too; but I'm much, much too focused here in cyberspace (Blogs & Facebook).

So ... I'm headed out for a sabbatical of unknown duration.  I'm thinking three weeks (the time frame THEY say it takes to change a habit) - one day at a time.  It's time for a pause and a rewind in order to get back to that place I love best, and most.

I wonder if He had me in mind when this was penned ... 

... The good stuff ...

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.
I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people,
that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not,
and have found them false.
You have persevered and have endured
 hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

... the not-so-good stuff ... 

Yet I hold this against you:
You have forsaken the love you had at first.
Revelation 2:2-4

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Year of the Eclipse

"God can cause unsullied light to spring out of black night.
He can also shroud in a dark cloud of gloom the pure light of day."

~ The Greek poet, Pinder, Ninth Paean - addressed to the Thebans

It was the year of the eclipse, and for the life of me I could not look upon that otherworldly event without some sense of awe and bewilderment.  It was terrifyingly beautiful in some strange sense; but terrifying all-the-same.

"Which eclipse?", you ask?  The one that blocked nearly every ray of light from my life. 

It doesn't really matter what was the timeframe, or even the cause of so great a phenomenon.  Suffice it to say, it was long ago.  Also, it really doesn't even matter what I did during it's duration (but let me just confess right now that I spent the most of it in tears and fear). 

What matters for now, in this thesis, is that a season of darkness rose above the pleasant places where once I had resided; and where I had thought to reside always. 

It was difficult to see in those days; to instruct my eyes to focus - - much less maintain equilibrium.  I had no idea that staring upon that thing - that eclipsing thing - could damage my very sightedness.

In recent days and months I have encountered so many people living beneath their own eclipse.  For some it's been a quick onset and equally quick passing; for others, a lengthy process.  I am often left without understanding, or even words of encouragement for them until I remember my own days of darkness; my year of the eclipse.

The word "suffer" gives me hives.  It makes me shudder.  I ask, "Certainly a good and just God would not allow, much less plan for His children's suffering?".  I know from personal experience that such a question is the surest, most direct route to guilt.

But what of suffering?  What do we make of the many scriptures touting it's needfulness; scriptures about how Jesus sufferred as an ingredient in the mix of obedience (Hebrews 5:8), or of Paul's troublesome thorn (2 Corinthians 12:7), or as a means of demonstrating God's power in or through His children (2 Peter 2:20-21, 1 Peter 5:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:2?

It is at this juncture that I consciously shun the helpfulness style (either in giving it, or in receiving it) of Job's friends who, with their critical eyes and self-righteous pomp compounded Job's suffering and, eventually, their own.  I also shun the inclination to run away from the sufferer, too uncomfortable to sit awhile alongside them.

I remember - again and anew - that suffering has value; that God's own Spirit is provided in large measure to comfort us through it, and to make us able to stand - and even to thrive.  While it produces obedience, it also produces the ability to comfort forward ...   

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
Who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,
 so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation;
if we are comforted, it is for your comfort,
which produces in you patient endurance ...

And our hope for you is firm,
because we know that just as you share in our sufferings,
so also you share in our comfort.

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure,
so that we despaired of life itself.

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God ...

On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us
Corinthians 1:3-10 (selections)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Heartland Security

Yesterday, while visiting my Old Geezer friend, I was struck anew about the importance of guarding one's mouth.  That particular wisdom resides on the flipside of the Guard Your Heart coin, and it has been a recurring theme in my life.

There's probably little need to define what "guarding" actually means.  Even so, Merriam reminds us that, in it's verb state it meansto protect from danger especially by watchful attention : make secure.

I think we'd all agree that guarding is, most often, an intentional initiative.  That places it squarely in the realm of defensive versus offensive tactics (think football) - though both may be necessary to ensure the safety of heart and tongue.   Afterall, the scriptures have much to say about waging war, and about the wearing of armor when doing so (think 24/7).  If protection and guarding weren't so vital, would we be instructed to armor up as we are (think Homeland Security)?  

As I read through Old Geezer's post, I flashed back to a scripture that tells us a lot about what words actually mean, beyond the obvious need to communicate.  They are the cascade from, or the overflow of what is rooted in our hearts (Luke 6:45, Matthew 12:34).  What we say reveals a lot about who we are.  

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. 
Proverbs 4:23

There are a lot of people in my life who take great delight in telling it like it is, or who eagerly grab center stage.  I'm one of them.  I appreciate straight talk and candor; being direct and truth telling (think politics).  Even so, I know I am guilty (and likely, so are they) of merely wanting to get my opinion out there. 

There's just something about wanting to be heard (or having one's say) that is so tasty and tempting!   

No wonder I am challenged by God's many, myriad, multiple, meaningful admonishings to guard the headwaters of thought and speech, the heart; and the mechansism for delivering its contents, the tongue.

Those who guard their mouths and
their tongues keep themselves from calamity.
Proverbs 21:23
Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
so that I take part in wicked deeds ...
Psalm 141:3-4

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.
Proverbs 13:3

I can think of no better word-picture for guarding my heart (and the tongue that takes it's queue from it) than that of a lioness fiercely protecting her cubs.  It is then that I understand more fully what is at stake (think marauding hyenas).  It is then that I am better able to value the placement of boundaries, and to take courage in their being guarded (think Lion of Judah).

... in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts
(and the tongue that takes it's que from it) 
and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:5-7

... I know Whom I have believed,
and am convinced that He is able to guard
what I have entrusted to Him ...
2 Timothy 1:12

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Keeping the Faith

I'm not an avid fan of too frequent or too lengthy blog posts.  So let me just apologize for doing both today.  I've turned off the comments, so please feel free to ponder the following without any need for such.  I'll just tell you right now, though; I often get the works/faith thing all cattywampus - either in my favor with glee & pride, or against my favor with doubt & shame (the operative word being favor).

I invite you to listen to my virtual Guest Blogger, Jack Kinsella (he doesn't know I've given him this great honor.  In fact, he doesn't even know me!).  I find his wisdom to be timely & needful; even a great antidote for cattywampuses ...

Keeping the Faith
Jack Kinsella

Today’s Omega Letter isn’t for everybody. If things are going fine in your Christian life, your faith is strong, and you are confident of your standing before God, then maybe you can skip this one. You probably won’t relate to it anyway.

But if you sometimes lay awake at night wondering if maybe you really aren’t good enough to be saved, or maybe you’ve misunderstood something and maybe you really aren’t saved, then you might want to read on. 

Faith is at once as simple as a recipe for boiling water and as complicated as a recipe for coq au vin. It really depends on how many ingredients you think necessary.

For some, faith means, “Jesus said it, I believe it and that settles it.” That pretty much sums up their Christianity. They don’t feel the need to examine their faith on a regular basis, or in some cases, at all.

I know of people who never go to church and never talk about Jesus and who live life pretty much the same as if they had never heard of Him. You wouldn’t know that they were Christians unless you brought the subject up.

But when the subject comes up, some seem to be more at peace with their salvation than many serious, mature and dedicated Christians that are constantly worried about losing their salvation.

Do you not know people like that? Are they really saved? They think they are. Although a lot of Christians I know would say they are not. 

Conversely, I know many mature, well-studied, serious and dedicated Christians that are constantly reexamining their faith and never completely sure if it measures up. For them, faith is a deeply complicated subject that involves all kinds of additional steps and support mechanisms. 

Do you not know people like that, too?

The writer of Hebrews defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

When you go to work on Monday, it is because you expect a paycheck on Friday. The paycheck is the substance of things hoped for, and the fact you show up on the job is the evidence that you’re expecting to be paid. 

If you didn’t have faith that there’d be a payday, then your lack of faith would be evident when you didn’t show up.

This is where faith and works get confused. You don’t go to the job in order to have faith in your boss. You go to the job BECAUSE you have faith in your boss. 

That is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote; “The just shall live by faith.” They don’t live by faith because they are just. They are just because they live by faith. It is faith that justifies.

But faith in what? That is the central question. 

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28) 

Have you ever wondered if you were losing your faith? (If not, then why are you still here? I told you this one isn’t for you.) 

The first question to be asked and answered is so simple as to often be ignored. Where did you put it? 

Is your faith in your ability to keep the Word? If so, then your faith is in yourself – no wonder you waver so much. 

Is it in your pastor or Bible teacher? That’s a pretty dangerous place to put it, since he is, by definition, a prime target on the enemy hit list. 

You would be surprised how many prominent Christian leaders suffer faith crises – especially the ones that seem to have it the most together.The more prominent or effective the teacher, the more intensely the enemy focuses his attack. 

Look at how many prominent men of faith have fallen -- and fallen hard -- from Jimmy Swaggart to Ted Haggard. Are they lost now? Were they ever really saved?

Think of how that affected their followers: Was I following a false doctrine? Am I now?

Paul says that a man is “justified by faith.” What does that mean? Faith in Jesus? What does that mean? Does faith mean simply believing that He lived and died and was resurrected on the third day?

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)

So clearly, faith isn’t the same as simply believing. Satan believes.

If your faith is in the indwelling Holy Spirit to keep you from sin, then what does it mean when you do sin? (for you certainly will.) Is the Holy Spirit faithless? Or are you? If you are faithless, then how can you be saved? 

If your faith is in Jesus Christ’s Promise that “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” well, that sounds too easy to be true sometimes, doesn't it? Especially when there are so many others all around you that don’t seem to have the same struggles that you do. 

That by itself is enough to cause a major faith crisis. Here you are, struggling through, knowing how many times you fall in the course of a single day, while other Christians seem to have it nailed. 

I’m not going to soothe you by telling you that you’re doing it right. Or that you can’t do better. Or that you shouldn’t do better. Because you likely aren’t, probably can, and certainly should.

But if your faith is in your ability to perform, then no wonder you question it. That is why salvation is by faith that, by the grace of God, Jesus did it all -- because you can’t do any of it.

Salvation is about having faith that you can trust the promises of God. Faith that He will perform them, not faith that you will

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) 

"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." (Romans 11:6) 

Those are both pretty much unambiguous, black-and-white statements. How much faith must one have to be saved? How faithful must one be to stay saved? Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains.

Can you move mountains?

Postscript:  I don't believe for a minute that Mr. Kinsella means to judge or malign the aforementioned Christians; just to use their well-known & public scandals as an illustration.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fool's Gold

It looks, for all it's worth, just like the real deal.  Glimmering & shimmering as it does, Fool's Gold boasts promises expected from authentic treasure. 

It flags us down along life's byway as if to hitch a ride in the direction of some worthwhile or valuable ascent.  Trouble is, it is not of the same stuff as genuine gold at all.   Trouble is, it has no value.  It cannot even keep it's own word and it's trajectory is always along the course of descent. 

In lieu of true value, the worth of Fool's Gold is constituted & concentrated in consequence; and that consequence is known as folly - - which, in turn, has even greater consequences.

Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing.
Proverbs 9:13

I dropped by Merriam's to see what he had to say on the subject. What he fleshes out for us is a not too kind a visage:

1: lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight
2a : criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct
2b:  evil, wickedness; especially : lewd behavior
3: a foolish act or idea
4: an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking

Even after all their mean spirited good intentions, Job's friends were lumped with the practitioners of folly, giving us a better idea about how motives & mouths factor into this business of pocketing Fool's Gold ...

My servant Job will pray for you,
and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you
according to your folly.
You have not spoken the truth about me,
as my servant Job has.” 
Job 42:8
And that's not all the ancient text has to say on the subject.  If I concentrate my eye towards the wisdom texts alone, I quickly surmise that no good thing can come of it. 

I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace
to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Psalm 85:8

The wealth of the wise is their crown,
but the folly of fools yields folly.
Proverbs 14:24

The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
Proverbs 15:2

Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding
keeps a straight course.
Proverbs 15:21

I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
 just as light is better than darkness.
Ecclesiastes 2:13

I'd like to say I've never played the fool nor engaged in folly.  But a quick inventory of it's kindreds - the alloy from which it's made - tells me different.  It is always accompanied by at least a few of these ...

  • Loud protestations & proclamations, as if shear volume or determination is the same as a gentle answer 
  • Loose lips (the kind that sinks ships)
  • Clamor, as if a lot of fuss is the same as ordered reason
  • Judging/excusing one's own, or another's folly
  • Rebellion, as if in this one instance it's the same as obedience
  • Denial; self delusion, as if truth and my take are one and the same
  • Pride, as if self-righteousness deserves a stage and audience
  • Selfishness, as if what's happening in my mind and life is all important; pivotal
  • A lack of understanding, or even a desire to have some, as if I know it all anyway
Reminder to self:  

"All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told.
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold.
Gilded tombs do worms enfold."
(Shakespeare/The Merchant of Venice)

By the way, don't try to bank that stuff - Fool's Gold - either.  It's yield accumulates into more of it's own value-less kind; and it won't pass the sniff test.  Folly never does. 

Footnote:  When I began penning this post earlier, it did not occur to me that today is April Fool's Day.  Rather an appropriate piece for so auspicious an occasion, don't you think?