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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

1 John 1:1-2:2

We declare to you what was from the beginning—

what we have heard

what we have seen with our eyes

what we have looked at and touched with our hands– concerning the word of life.

This life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you, the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true, but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

God always blesses the reading of his word

Great and holy Father, we are your little children. We are unable to truly comprehend, the wonderful and selfless act your son did so that we may be able to fellowship with you.

Thank you. Thank you for the many ways you show your love to us. Thank you for our friends and family. For our many talents. For the opportunity to have a relationship with you.

Father help us to be more like John. Empower us to speak about what we know about you and the love and mercy you have for us.

We have heard your word with our ears. We pray that we will understand it with our hearts.

We have seen your acts of grace and mercy. We pray that we can show the same grace to our brothers and sisters.

We have looked and touched with our hands when we help those who are the least, the lost, and the lonely. We pray that we will recognize the face of Jesus in everyone we meet.

Father, forgive us our failings. Forgive us when we do not hear. When we allow the world’s noise to cloud out your still small voice.

Forgive us when we do not see because we are focused on worldly things that only separate us from you.

Forgive us when we doubt the hands that we are helping are yours because we are distracted by what he is wearing, or saying, or doing, and not what YOU are showing us.

Remind us Lord that you came to save all of us from sin and bring all of us into a personal relationship with you. It is your commandment for us to fellowship with all your people—not just the ones who look, and think and act like we do. Not just our friends from our neighborhood and community, but everyone.

Father, we humbly come to you and ask to hear our cries for our brothers and sisters who are in need of comfort and healing.

We give thanks and rejoice for Elliott’s recovery. We thank you for the comforting and talented hands of all the people who work at Children’s Hospital.

And be with my sister, Melissa as she deals with having to remove her father from life support. Comfort in her loss and give her strength as she faces new challenges.

We pray for our military. For the leaders that they may strive to seek peace. For our soldiers, including Capt. Shane Mason, who are willing to sacrifice themselves to ensure our freedom.

We pray for our homebound members and touch their hearts so they know they are not forgotten.

Father, hear our prayers for our church. We give thanks for the many hands and hearts that serve our church. We pray for our pastors and leaders, that they may be wise and patient with us. We pray for Jarrettown’s many missions and ministries—that you will bless those who are serving and strengthen those who are seeking a place to serve.

We pray that you strengthen our fellowship with our brothers and sisters so that our church can rise up and be an example to all, of the love of Jesus Christ.

Be with our youth and their leaders who are wrapping up their confirmation weekend. We pray that hearts and minds and lives have been changed.

Light our path so that we can proclaim to everyone, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

In you Son’s holy name we pray, Amen.

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This was the 4th word of Christ. Delivered April 6,2012 at Jarrettown’s Good Friday Service

 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

After Jesus saw his mother, and spoke his third word, it is written that darkness filled the sky. From twelve until three, darkness descended on the whole land. It wasn’t a sunset or and eclipse. First there was sun; then there wasn’t.

I can’t help but wonder, those who weren’t present at the crucifixion thought as they worked in their fields or washed their clothes in the river? What did they say and do as they ate their mid-day meal in the dark? The Bible doesn’t say the day turned to night—with familiar stars that might provide people with some comfort. Not night. Darkness.

For three hours.

Then, as abruptly as the darkness descended, the sun reappeared and Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ” Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? “ [Eh-lo-eye, Eh-lo-eye, lama sub-ACHT-en-eye.]

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This saying is traditionally called “The Word of Abandonment” and is the only one of Jesus’s final statements that appears in more than one Gospel.Not only does it appear in Matthew, it is also found in Mark 15:34. It is the opening line of Psalm 22, a psalm about persecution, the mercy and salvation of God.

I find it interesting that these are the first words Jesus makes which refer to himself rather than others. He’s asked his Father for forgiveness for others, told a thief of his salvation, and guaranteed a safe future for his mother. Then darkness covers the land and Jesus cries out to his Father—“Where are you? Why have you left me?”

Jesus is facing death by himself. He sounds so…alone. So… human.

I’ve always felt that the darkness was the moment all our sins were placed on Jesus. He took on his Apostles’ sins. He took on Pilate’s sins. He took on Judas’ sins. He took on the thieves’ sins. Through time and space, he took on my sin and your sin. For three long hours, he took on all sins from all people, from all time.

And it appears that it severed Jesus’ intimate relationship with God.

Jesus, though he walked on earth, walked with God. He prayed to God; he worshiped God; he served God. Jesus told the Jewish leaders in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” He goes on to say, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me.”

And now, as he takes on our sin, he cries out in his abandonment.

What about those who weren’t present at the crucifixion? The men working in their fields—the women washing clothes or cleaning up after the meal? They had no idea what Jesus was doing for them at that moment.

And today, though we have grocery stores to provide us with food and appliances to clean our clothes and our dishes—are we really so different from them? Can we truly claim that we understand what Jesus was doing for us?

One of Jesus’ final acts as he took on all our sin, was to demonstrate how sin separates us from God.

Just as Jesus felt alone from God as he bore the weight of all sin, we too are missing an intimate relationship with God when we are in the midst of sin.

When we feel lost and alone—separate from God, it is sin that is the wall.

But we can rejoice. Because Jesus took on our sin, that wall doesn’t have to keep us from having a personal relationship with God.

Jesus suffered—He felt alone and abandoned. He felt human. But He died and rose again so that we might know the Father and be with him in paradise.

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When I picked this book from *Thomas Nelson Publishers to review, I was honestly wondering how I could actually “review” a Bible. I mean, it’s not as though I can questions the contents or anything. But Father’s Day is right around the corner and I knew my husband didn’t have a Bible, so I thought this might be a nice gift.

I was a little worried–owning several Bibles myself I know how personal a Bible is. Even when I’ve selected Bibles for my kids I’ve reviewed the different versions and styles–as I’ve said before, The Message is a little too “new age” while the King James Version will bog my kids down in “thee’s” and “thou’s.” The same likely holds true for my husband as well.

I have to say, I was quite pleased with Dad’s Bible: The Father’s Plan. It is properly masculine–not too formal and yet contains a presence about it that indicates its importance. It’s the New Century Version and for a quick comparison, I randomly opened the Bible and selected a few verses to see how they translated through Biblegateway.com.

Proverbs 24:3-4 (odd I just opened to this; it was the verse for my Saturday Sanctuary!)

It takes wisdom to have a good family, and it takes understanding to make it strong.
It takes knowledge to fill a home with rare and beautiful treasures. (New Century Version)


It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation;
It takes knowledge to furnish its rooms with fine furniture and beautiful draperies. (The Message)

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches. (King James)

A house is built by wisdom
and becomes strong through good sense.
Through knowledge its rooms are filled
with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. (New Living Translation)


My preferred Bible translation seems to be New Living Translation but this version is very nice too.

One of my favorite parts of this Bible are the sidebars that have real life applications for fathers. Throughout the book, parenting specific sidebars by Robert Wolgemuth help men see how passages related to their job as a father.

It also has a great Q and A section in the back that are perfect for those parenting questions our children always hit us with: How big is God?, Why is the Dead Sea dead?, Why do good people suffer?

And finally, Wolgemuth includes a “God’s Word on..” section that pulls specific scriptures about very human problems. Having a quick resource when you are dealing with a discouraged son or a daughter asking about temptation is invaluable.

So while this book is still going to my husband in a few weeks, it is very likely another resource that I will use. Or, I might look up the companion one: Mom’s Bible.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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So I’d like to share some of the things I learned about this project. For those of you who haven’t been following my blog, here’s the lowdown. Instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to DO something for Lent. The act of doing, rather than sacrificing seemed to align with my thought process a little better. So the assignment was to randomly select a Bible verse (accomplished via this site), and write about my thoughts, feelings concerning the scripture verse. I don’t pretend to have any formal knowledge or Biblical training. My only education related to the Bible would be the Old and New Testament class I had to take at Carson-Newman college–and we won’t discuss the grades I got there. Let’s just say I’m glad we are saved by grace and not acts.

After I started the process, I realized that in fact, I still was giving up something for Lent: my time. And for a working mother with three kids, that is a sacrifice. Wanting to go to bed, wanting to knit, wanting to watch a show and instead writing on some scripture that I had NO idea what I was supposed to say, was a sacrifice.

And humbling.

I’m one of those people who has an opinion on everything and is willing to share it with everyone. But some of these scriptures were really hard. There were times I really wanted to hit the refresh button and get a new “random” scripture. But that would have been cheating. I had to believe that there was something about the verse that I got each time that was either supposed to teach me or my readers (all six of them since Viagra and I broke it off ).

Some of the verses really made me think (Oh, NO! Don’t mix thinking and faith–that just isn’t right!). Some verses that on first glance, made me think I wouldn’t have ANYTHING to say, turned out to be the most interesting and prolific entries. Others that I thought would be a piece of cake, left me speechless (I know, that’s hard).

The other thing I learned is that I can’t count. Somehow, I always seemed to be ahead (rarely) or behind (usually) of where I thought I should be. Don’t ask me; ask the Tennessee Public School system.

The process was frustrating. There is nothing more inspiring that having a million really important things that have to be done immediately, that cause a writer to have a million and one enlightening ideas that can’t be acted upon. There is nothing more uninspiring that having nothing on your plate– no children, commitments or obligation, and nothing but an empty screen and open keyboard to suck every creative thought from your brain. Let the phone right with a new deadline and the creative juices flow. I never did (and probably never will) solve that process but I certainly got to practice.

Someone, I think it was Rick Warren, or maybe my grandmother, said that if you pray to be a certain way–more patient, a better writer, a better parent, that God doesn’t give you the skill or trait. He puts you in situations to develop that skill or trait. So when I pray to be more patient, I’m put in situations that require me to practice patience. If I want to be a better writer, He gives me assignments that require me to stretch. When I prayed to be a better parent, He gave me challenging children. And as frustrating as it is–it works. I am infinitely more patient in my thirties than I was in my twenties. I’m sure I’ll be even more patient when I turn forty (okay, I might have already seen 40–more than once). I am a much better parent with The Baby at 2 than I was with The Boy and The Girl when they were two.

Me, during Nanowrimo

Practice makes perfect. Having a topic and assignment forced me to write or admit that I wasn’t writing. Every year (and by that I mean the last 4 years) I participate in Nanowrimo. Every November, writers from around the world (yes the whole world) get together to encourage, bribe and cajole each other into writing a 50,000 word novel. I completed the assignment 3 of the 4 years. Where the novels good? Hell no. Of the 50K words, I’ll probably end up keeping about 1500 of them. Actually, I’ll probably keep all the words, I just have to put all of them in an entirely new order. The whole roomful of monkeys writing Shakespeare idea.

The point of Nanowrimo and my Lent assignment is that a writer doesn’t need plot, structure, characters or dialog to write a novel. What a writer needs is a deadline. For twenty years, I stopped writing because, well, I could. I didn’t have a deadline. And it isn’t just writers that are prone to this trait. Do you need to lose weight? So do you carefully monitor your food intake and calorie output all year long or only three months before swimsuit season or the important reunion? Do you look for jobs with better pay, benefits and opportunities while you are employed or after you are laid off? Do you pay your bills as soon as they arrive or right before they are due? We need deadlines to accomplish things.

As Christians–and people in general–we have an ultimate deadline: death. Hollywood has cashed in on our end of life deadline by making The Bucket List. Web sites, self-help gurus and groups are springing up all over, encouraging all of us to create and complete the items on our personal bucket list.

Even before I started my Lenten project, I tried to give myself self-imposed deadlines in order to keep writing. It is much easier to accomplish something when you have to do it everyday. Habits need consistency. Studies have shown it takes approximately 12 weeks to start or stop a habit. And it is most successful when it is practiced everyday. Can you really quit smoking by only smoking every other day? Do you lose weight eating healthy 4 days a week and eating whatever the other three? Can an alcoholic be sober every other week? So my self-imposed deadline was to write everyday–even if it was only 15 minutes. I really REALLY try to do it here because it provides a record and accountability. While I do write many (many, many) words for my job, I don’t feel like they “count” because…well, just because. I wanted to say, “because they are boring” but that isn’t always true. Some of my stuff is very interesting (I hope) to my audience. I wanted to say, “because I’m doing it for someone else” but that also isn’t true. My work writing is, to some extent, done for me. More importantly, my personal writing–this blog my short stories, novels and non-fiction works are to some extent, written for you (you being the global you of society as a whole). I think I want my blog to be what “counts” because it is my Hebrews 11:1 NKJV. I particularly like the New King James Version of this verse–maybe because it is the format I first found the scripture. My writing is faith in action. My entries are the substance of things hoped for– the evidence of things unseen.

Ice crystals under a magnifying glass

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If you could become a Women of Faith speaker what would you talk about?

I’ve been to several WoF conferences over the years. The first one was such a surprise–talk about God working in mysterious ways. A women at our church offered tickets and, being a new member, I signed up and asked if I could ride with her and her friends. I didn’t realize that I was infringing on a group of women who knew EVERYTHING about each other. While the  women weren’t anything but nice and polite, I could tell their relationship went beyond just Sundays at church.

God does like to put us in uncomfortable situations, doesn’t he? Maybe He thinks we are going to grow or something.

While all the speakers at the conferences have been amazing, there were two women who really stood out for me at the conference–Nicole Johnson and Anita Renfroe.

Anita’s “Weird Al Yankovic” repertoire made me almost pee in my pants (which isn’t hard to do, given I’ve had three children). I immediately went home and found her version of the William Tell Overture and played it for my family. For some reason, the children weren’t quite as impressed with it as I was. Apparently they’d heard it all before….

But it was Nicole Johnson’s dramas that really stood out for me. It was like she’d taken my word, my life, my stories and put them on stage for everyone to see.I did forensics in college–no, not what Quincy does (oh, God, I’m dating myself). Not what Dr. G does– but a competition involving public speaking.

If I could speak at a Women of Faith event, I would try do something like Nicole Johnson does. I would use drama and humor to explain how God puts us in really strange places in order for us to grow and learn. He made me a mother, a daughter, and a wife all so I would have a never ending supply of material. I’ve spoke at my church about how I always had prayed that God would give me patience and a sense of humor so He gave me The Boy and The Girl. The Baby is my reward for not killing The Boy and The Girl. But I’ll tell you one thing, I now have a lot more patience and am funny as heck.

Now, my group of women are the ones organizing the conference weekend. We have a bible study/women’s group every Wednesday night. Some of us have gone on vacations together. Our children spend so much time with each other that they act like siblings (can we talk about the drama surrounding tweeners)? We have a relationship that goes beyond church on Sundays.

Could you say I’ve become one of those women? I hope not. I think I learned from my experience. Because I grew up in a dysfunctional home (but then again, who didn’t), I am always seriously amazed when anyone wants to be my friend. Shocked really. I assume someone is really talking to the person behind me, or they are looking for another Rebecca who attends our church, or that they are really talking on their bluetooth and not speaking to me at all. When one of the newer members of the mom’s group asked to spend time with me one day, I was convinced she’d mistaken me for another member of the group. Why on earth would she want to hang out with me? But I decided to humor her, and after her son puked on my carpet the first time she came over to my house, I knew we were perfect for each other. Vomit brings people together.

But when she started coming to our group, I was nervous. I really had to move outside my comfort zone to welcome her. I had to actively decide that I might have something to offer her. I think that’s why I never clicked with the original group of women–I didn’t think that I had anything to offer them and, more than likely, they probably didn’t feel like they had anything to offer me.

God made women the way we are as a special gift. We are created to need one another in ways that men can’t understand. My husband can have a five minute conversation on the phone with his brother that consists of several “yes” “no” “really” and “okay,” and have caught up on six months of his life. I can have a one- hour conversation with my girlfriends and still need to see them later that day. God wants us to learn from each other. It took me several years (okay, decades) to have girlfriends. I was the tomboy who was the best friend to all the boys. I used to tell myself it was because I couldn’t stand the drama that women brought to a situation. Only after I had children did I really start to look for companionship with other women. Probably because I needed validation that I wasn’t entirely wrecking my children’s emotional and mental health (I am, but not any more than any of the other moms I know).

Having that bond with women has changed my life. God has given me the sisters that I never had growing up. He’s given me role models and mentors who have lifted me up and smacked me (lovingly) back to reality. Every woman who shares my life has taught me something. As a Women of Faith speaker, I would love the opportunity to share my experiences with other women. I would love to come from the place of having something to offer other women. I could show them how they have something to offer other women.

Now when we start promoting the WoF conference (coming to Philly in September) I make it a point to reach out to women who aren’t part of my group. I make it a point to invite and encourage women with whom I think I don’t have anything in common. I make it a point to trust God that they might have something to offer me and–more importantly–that I might have something to offer them. And if all else fails, I can see if one of my kids can puke on them.

MckLinky Blog Hop

Click here to view the entire list of Women of Faith Wednesday links…

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Psalm 145:18-19

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.

These are getting harder. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve done so many of these or if I’m starting to feel that I’m entirely out of my element. As I’m writing these I’m thinking, “I don’t have any expertise in this! Who in their right mind should follow my spiritual teachings.”

He has risen

He has risen

Lord, I can’t even count correctly. Lent is supposed to be 46 days. Or 40 if you don’t count Sundays. I thought I was writing one a day and several times when I counted, I thought I was up to date. At one point, I think I was even ahead. But now I’m either two days ahead or 4 days behind.

I often wonder if God is near. I know in “theory” he is–but I’m a practical kind of girl and really wonder if God has any tolerance for the more mundane aspects of my life. But David is telling us in this passage that the Lord is near to all who call on Him.

I struggle with the fear aspect of the second verse. I don’t know if I fear God in the classic sense. Fearing God seems very Old Testament. It is more a sense of fear of disappointing Him. I feel that God has given me (and you) so many gifts and talents and to abuse them through apathy, or frustration, or whatever, I’m doing a disservice to God. The Boy is a fabulous comic book writer/artist. When he was younger, he’d made a few comic books that we’d made color copies of and had given out to friends and family. He was fortunate enough in middle school to have been picked to do a comic strip for the school paper. I thought it was fabulous! I would have LOVED an opportunity to have my talents recognized in middle school. Him? Nah. Didn’t want to do it. He said it was stupid and “gay” and he declined. I was so disappointed.

Now I know I’m not God by ANY stretch but comparing God to parenting is the only thing I can wrap my head around. Here was my wonderful, talented son being recognized and given a fabulous opportunity and he WAS TURNING IT DOWN!!!

I worry when I don’t write that God is feeling just like I did. He’s up there thinking, “I gave her all this talent and she’s just wasting it!” That’s the fear that I have for God.

But I can rejoice (and you can too) in that God hears our cries and saves us. He wraps His arms around us and comforts us. Verse 17 confirms His love:

17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.

As our time of Lent comes to a close and we get to rejoice in the coming Easter, remember all that God has given us. He has sacrificed His most precious Son that we might have a relationship with Him.

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Mark 12:30-31

30 “‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

To me, this is basically the entire point of the Bible broken down into two scriptures. Get rid of the 10 Commandments. Forget about the scriptures in Leviticus. The begats don’t matter. If all Christians practiced these two commandments, the world would be a much better place. Consider how we would be obligated to behave as if we loved God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Think about it–could we allow people to starve? to go without medical care? to have unsafe drinking water? to sleep knowing the bonuses the bank executives got? to watch someone lose a house? We haven’t even gotten to the second commandment and we are starting to squirm.

Aren’t we tasked with serving the least of our brothers?

Actually though, I think the second verse is potentially more damning. Love your neighbor as yourself? I’m guessing it isn’t the dysfunctional, self-deprecating, therapy-seeking, guilt-filled love that I’m still working on, eh? Didn’t think so. Projecting my lack of self-esteem onto some of the PTA moms who live in my neighborhood might be very therapeutic. I’m looking at YOU, Demers. I’m done with how put together you are, pulling up to the school in your nice, shiny car. If you don’t stop making the rest of us look so inadequate…okay, you can stop laughing, I can’t even type it with a straight face.

No, I’m guessing that isn’t the type of love I’m supposed to display. But I do think that God doesn’t want me gossiping about my neighbor. Or stealing from her. Or saying hateful things. I’m guessing I need to do everything I can to lift my neighbor up–to meet her needs, to make sure that she is able to shine in the best light.

Isn’t that what I want for myself?

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