Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful for the prayers of others

Long ago, when I was a teenager, a wise woman once told me, "You can ask the Lord to move people to pray for you."

That stuck with me.

Often though, when in need of prayer, I am unable to ask either God or others for help.

I will be forever grateful for Matthew 6:8, which tells us that our Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need, even before we ask Him.

I am so very thankful for people who pray for me, and for the God who moves them to pray, placing the need on their hearts so they respond.  I am thankful when they call or email or text to tell me that they are praying, or that God placed my situation on their hearts at a certain time.  I am thankful when they write out their prayers for me, so I can see what they are asking God on my behalf.  This doesn't happen often; it is rare and precious.  I remember each time.

I am thankful for the prayers of others, and I am thankful that when others pray for me, it teaches me what a blessing we can all be to one another, through our prayers for each other.  To pray for someone is to give a blessing.  I am thankful that I can both pray and be prayed for.  I am thankful that there is a God in Heaven who hears and answers prayer, with pleasure, because He loves us, and our prayers rise to Him like the aroma of incense (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4).



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thankful today

I may decrease the thankful posts, but not because I am not thankful.

This morning I am thankful for a nice sleep in my comfortable bed, delicious coffee, a hot shower, bright morning sun, respite, a kitchen full of ingredients for a Thanksgiving feast, and most of all, the safe arrival of this beauty from Boston, yesterday:




Friday, November 17, 2017

Thankful for new beginnings

Today was a hard day.

The sky was gray, the air was cold and wet with mist.  Bare fields spread, blackened, finished.  Done.

"They've been shorn of their corn, shorn of their corn, shorn of their corn," my mind chanted silently as miles passed.

It was a hard day but a good day.  The sun has set now, and the mist thickened into a real rain that dashes against the sides of my house.  Within my house, lights are on, and heat rises from the vents.  Within my heart, peace and joy rest quietly, soft peace, subtle joy.  For once, I am not striving to claim my promised peace and joy, not begging God to replenish them.  No, they are simply here, quiet and still.

I'm exhausted, but I have hope, hope that a tide has turned.

Usually I think of new beginnings in the springtime, when the days lengthen, the crocuses poke up, and Easter draws near.

Who would think of the miracle of a new beginning in the middle of November?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," says the Lord.

"Behold, I am making all things new," says the Lord.

Amen.  I am thankful.







Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankful

Today I do not feel thankful.

I wasn't going to write.

I don't know for certain what has happened or is happening, but signs indicate that circumstances are bad.

Certainly, I do not know what will happen next.

It's strange to think that before long, this post will be in the past, and if I look back on it, I will know many of the things that I don't (didn't) know while writing today.

God knows it all, the end from the beginning.

I wasn't going to write.

However, I felt compelled to express thanks.  To give glory to God.  To praise Him in the storm.

I am thankful that He is eternally faithful and loving, even when my sense of His faithfulness and love is weak.  His truth does not depend on my perception.

I guess I'm thankful that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  His grace is sufficient.  His grace breaks the power of sin.

Yes, I am thankful for that.





Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thankful for washers and dryers



I don't have a stylish Pinterest-worthy laundry room.  But my laundry room works fine.  It is adequate--nay, luxurious--for just the two of us, Shawn and me.

I'm thankful for how easy it is to throw clothes into the washer, and then the dryer, and come back to fresh, dry, fluffy, clean things.

If only it were as easy to purify a heart as it is to launder a towel.

I'm thankful for washers and dryers, and especially thankful that I have one of each in my own home for my own convenient use.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thankful for the constant, abiding presence of the Holy Spirit

Today, at a critical point in time, I asked the Lord to fill me, top me off, fill to the measure and overflow me with the Holy Spirit.

You need to ask for that regularly.  Not because He leaves in-between times, but just because we live in a temporal world and we need regular refilling.  Maybe it's just the consciousness and the reminder that we need.  Whatever it is, it is necessary.  I remembered to ask.

Not long after, I happened into a spiritual battle.

There is a spiritual war going on, but the skirmishes are relatively rare.  I don't have to engage in active combat very often, other than prayer war.  The prayer war is daily, and sometimes multiple times per day.  However, today there was some active combat, a confrontation.

It wasn't warlike in the human arena.  Not really.  The Spirit of God was powerful and there was peace.  Kindness.  Miraculous lack of anger in the face of a very challenging conversation.  In the physical world, a passerby may well never have known that there was a battle raging.

In the spiritual world, blows were flying.  I'm not sure what all happened, but I am exhausted now.

Exhausted.

I don't know what happened.  It seems pretty clear that I didn't lose, but I'm not sure I've gained any territory yet, either.

The fact is certain, though, that God was there, and God was powerful in me and around me.

I am thankful to my Lord and King, the One who made me, the One who died for me, the One who rose victorious from the dead, the One who never slumbers or sleeps, the One who is my help.

The One who lives in me and is my help.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.  (Psalm 31:24)

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.  (Psalm 54:4)

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  (1 John 4:4)

I am thankful.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Thankful for wildlife sightings



A fox lives in our neighborhood, or maybe more than one.

Since Daylight Savings Time ended, when we're coming home in the late afternoon, turning our car off the main road and into our neighborhood, a small golden fox sometimes sits calmly in the middle of the street.  As our car approaches, she rises and saunters away into the brush, her tail swinging heavy and thick behind her.

Perhaps she is a grown kit from the litter born here last year.

Schubert doesn't care for foxes.

Shubert doesn't care for Honey-Bear, the golden retriever who lives next-door, either.  In fact, his hatred of Honey-Bear knows no bounds.  "I do not like that Honey-Bear," he tells me, indignant, whenever she comes into view.  Or, he screams.  Have you ever heard a dog scream?  It's sort of like a yelp, only more intense.

This morning, Schubert was on self-appointed guard duty, as per usual.  Shawn was in Detroit.  I was trying to make my own coffee in Shawn's absence, which is particularly difficult for me, because (1) Shawn has me spoiled on his really good coffee, and (2) I simply lack the wherewithal to make coffee before I've had any coffee.  I used to think Keurigs were a silly gimmick, but I am starting to understand.  No, Keurigs don't produce the best coffee.  But they are designed so that those-who-cannot-make-coffee-before-they-have-had-coffee can actually get some coffee.  There's more justification than I thought.

I digress.  Back to the wildlife.

I was in the kitchen, trying desperately to find a pair of reading glasses so I could decipher the marks on the coffee maker water gauge so I could start some coffee before I got a migraine.

Suddenly, from the front hall, Schubert began to scream.  He screamed, yelped and howled while his little paws went scritchy-scritchy-scritchy-scritchy-scritchy on the sidelight window.

Figuring it was on account of Honey-Bear, I headed up the front hall to do some damage control for the woodwork.  Over the weekend, I cleaned up the front porch, removing the hanging baskets of ferns and clearing most of what was left in the flower patch.  Thus, I had a clear view out to the yard, where I expected to observe the reddish fur of plodding Honey-Bear.  Instead, I saw, right in front of my porch, what at first appeared to be a horse.

A deer was ambling by, perhaps exploring diet options.  At the sound of Schubert and the sight of my appearing shadow, she--it was a huge doe--picked up her pace, loped out of our yard, across the street, and into the neighbor's yard, where she lept about five feet, excessively clearing a fire-hydrant.  White tail high, she cantered up the boulevard.

I'm thankful for such a breathtaking sight.  You don't see something like that every day.





Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thankful for the gospel



This is the gospel:

Although we live in a broken, messed up, devastating and sometimes terrifying world,

there is hope for salvation!

We could never work hard enough or behave well enough to earn this salvation,

for, like the world, we ourselves are broken,

defaced by the original sin of our ancient ancestors.

We, by default, contribute to the trouble around us,

striving for what we think are our rights

and always, in the process,

trampling someone else.

But even though we are cursed, broken and incurably selfish,

there is hope.

God, our Creator,

the One who created both us

and this poor, beautiful world that we've desecrated,

loves us.  He loves us.

So He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live with us and die for us,

to pay the price, the debt we owed for our sin.

The debt we could never have paid, He paid for us.

With His blood.

He bore the wrath of God in our place.

Then He rose from the dead, to prove

that grace and life have ultimate power over sin and death.

If we will turn from sin to grace,

if we will run to Jesus for healing and forgiveness,

He will never turn us away.

No.  Instead, He will run back to meet us

with open arms.

He will clothe us in His righteousness and call us His own.

He will give us new lives, new identities,

a new source of security and a new power for living: His own Spirit inside us.

He will abide in us now, giving us a preview of the glory to come,

changing our hearts, teaching us His ways,

and always keeping His promises to help, to encourage, to remain with us . . .

until finally the time comes for all of creation to be redeemed and restored.

Then we will live in perfect glory with Him and never taste death again.

Forever.  Hallelujah.  Amen.


I have known the gospel for as long as I can remember; I was practically born in church.  A few years ago (maybe 8?) I was struck by an idea that a number of great teachers were presenting:  "You need to love the gospel," they said.

Love the gospel?  What does that even mean?  Of course I am glad that there is salvation for all who believe.  But love the gospel?

"Have a deep affection in your heart for the gospel," they said.  They probably told me that if I didn't have it, I needed to pray for this affection to grow in my heart.  This is what I did.  Half-heartedly.  Without even knowing for what I was asking.

And yet, He was faithful.

All these long years later, I have come to love the gospel in ways I never imagined, this epic rescue mission that God is carrying out.  It's been quite a journey, at times far beyond what I thought I could bear, and it isn't over.  However, today I stand where I am and praise God for bringing me this far, trusting Him to carry on to completion the work He has begun.

I am thankful for the gospel, and I am thankful that Jesus is teaching me to love the gospel.



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thankful for work and safety

Today was a lovely Saturday, although fairly chilly.  Perfect fall clean-up work weather.

We worked outside for the better part of the daylight hours, mostly raking and trimming trees.

About halfway through, when the ground was liberally littered with twigs from hewn branches, I started a fire in our little firepot.  It lent a festive scent to the air, lifting the spirits, which weren't even low to start.  Fire on an autumn day blends perfectly with the colors of the falling leaves and the bustle of seasonal chores.  I enjoyed tending the fire and tossing in odds and ends that I gleaned off the ground after Shawn trimmed the trees and we hauled the branches to the edge of the road.

Shawn climbed a ladder and trimmed the trees with his chainsaw that he bought back in the summer when the giant branch fell on my garden.  It is a blessing to have a chainsaw, but it is terrifying to watch your husband climb a wobbly ladder, pull the starter on the chainsaw a few times with violent backwards jerks, and then reach upwards with the chainsaw to cleave off branches.

I am thankful that we have a chainsaw and didn't have to hire all this work done.  I am thankful that we accomplished a lot.  And, I am particularly thankful that nobody was injured in the process.

I am also thankful for the little firepot that we bought for dirt cheap in the spring and enjoyed immensely all summer.  Today was its last hurrah though.  It burned through its bottom.  Next spring, we will probably try to buy a better quality firepot, one that will last longer, since we learned how much we like having fires.  Today, it was a joy to linger over the flickering flames, spreading out our fingers to thaw between tasks, and finally relaxing in lawn chairs after a day of hard work, watching radiant embers illuminate red dollops throughout a mound of white ash, foretelling the coming of winter.

Firepot, wheelbarrow full of sawn logs,
man putting his life in jeopardy
on a ladder with a chainsaw.

We survived all this and more.

I am thankful.







Friday, November 10, 2017

Thankful for palatable ways to eat vegetables

Recently I owned the fact that I am not a lover of vegetables.

Which isn't strictly true, because I like nearly all vegetables if they are prepared in the right form.  Mostly, carrots don't thrill me.  Cooked celery is pretty repugnant, too, although it imparts a pleasant flavor, as long people aren't expected to chew the limp, stringy stalks.  Some vegetables are best cooked down until they are very soft, and then pureed into soup stock.

Soup is a good way to make vegetables palatable.  Recently, I developed a new soup recipe, and I want to save it for posterity because it is really easy.  Easy and tasty and full of vegetables--that's a winner.  Four vegetables, four seasonings (besides salt and pepper).

I tried taking a picture of it, but it was not photogenic.  Here is a truth that people often overlook in these days of Pinterest images: the prettiest foods are not always the best tasting.  Sometimes the food you view in mouthwatering photographs is well nigh inedible in real life.  People totally forget this.  And the converse is also true: unphotogenic food can be delicious.

This soup is delicious and not particularly photogenic, so I think it is best served by a photo which shows that it was happily consumed, right down to the dregs.



Easy Italian Vegetable Soup

ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage (Sweet or hot, but NOT Jimmy Dean!!  Leave it out before you use breakfast sausage.  "Sausage" is optional.  Italian is not.)
  • chopped kale (you decide how much; 2-3 cups?  4?)
  • thin sliced carrots (Use your food processor slicing blade--again you decide how many carrots, 2-3 largish ones?  Carrots are not my favorite; I try not to get too many.)
  • zucchini (probably 2--cut in quarters the long way, then slice about 1/2 inch thick)
  • chopped peppers, 1 green + 1 red or yellow or orange, or 2 green, or 2 red; whatever
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 3 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1--24 oz. jar marinara sauce (or any red sauce you like)
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • crushed red pepper flakes
note: obviously you can use real onion and garlic instead of powdered, if you wish.  This is just to keep the recipe easy--in case you are already down with a cold--and to accommodate those who are bothered by onion.  Use a few cloves of fresh garlic if you feel so led.  If you're going for something medicinal, fresh garlic is your best friend.


method:

Brown and crumble the sausage in a large pot.  Drain most of the fat, but leave a residue.  Add kale, carrots, zucchini and peppers and saute with sausage in the remaining fat until they are warmed through and beginning to tender.  Add seasonings and toss to coat.  Add marinara sauce and chicken broth.  Add crushed red pepper to taste, up to a teaspoon, or more if you are a lover of heat.  (If you are fighting a respiratory ailment, spicy broth is great for your sinuses.)  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to very low and simmer for 45 minutes or so.  Serve anytime after the simmer period, although it will be exponentially better reheated the second day.

note:  If you decide to make this without sausage, just begin by sauteing the vegetables in olive oil.  You might also like to add pre-cooked (aka "canned") cannellini or black beans.

This is nice topped with grated parmesan cheese.

I'm thankful for an easy way to make vegetables taste nice, and an easy way to make soup!




a note on kale:  I do not believe in kale smoothies (if you want greens in your smoothie, use baby spinach).  Kale is an example of how vegetables can be tasty in certain applications and not in others.  I think kale is particularly pleasant in Italian food.  It's a nice substitute for meat in meat sauce, and it is nice in this soup.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thankful for a morning walk

Yesterday afternoon, I walked the dog and found a group of perfect, dazzling trees in my neighborhood.  Last year I also happened upon these trees at their peak, but by the time I got Shawn out to see them, they'd dropped their glory and were naked.

So this morning, I said, "We need to take Schubert for a walk while those trees are still amazing.  This morning.  Now!  Can you hurry, please?"

So he did (hurry), and we did (go for a walk).  And the leaves were still dazzling.

How much gratitude can a lady even hold in her heart?


I love everything about this picture:

  • My heroic husband.
  • My darling dog.
  • The cheery red fire hydrant.
  • The spectacular orange tree.
  • The brilliant blue sky.


People, you don't get all this every day.  Tomorrow the leaves will probably have fallen, and the sky might be overcast.  You never know what tomorrow will hold.

Seize the day and be thankful.  Oh, how I am thankful.

Amen.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thankful for milk



When I was a little girl, I hated milk.

Sometimes I wonder if this was because we usually had skim milk.  When I was two, we flew to California to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins.  I remember drinking everybody's coffee cream out of the tiny, round containers with tear-off tops (back when airlines served meals).  I think I even remember my parents commenting in surprise that I liked the cream so much.  However, I hated milk.

This all changed when my own children were very small.  When I became a nursing mother, I craved milk.  When I had a one-year-old who drank whole milk (as per doctor's orders), I started nipping in the whole milk, and discovered that it was delicious.  As ensuing children were born, I always kept whole milk in my refrigerator, and I usually gulped down a large glass before every nursing session.  "Milk in, milk out," I would tell myself, swallowing fast.

Now that I am gluten free, it sometimes feels difficult to get full, not being able to top off with bread or pasta.  For this reason, I am more thankful than ever for milk.  A nice, big glass of milk does wonders for satisfying the appetite and giving a person that settled, finished feeling after a meal.

I am thankful for milk, and I am exceedingly thankful that I am not dairy intolerant!




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thankful for autumn colors



I am thankful for the beautiful colors of autumn.  I know, I know, it's cliche.  Cliche or not, though, it's true.

This morning, the sun came streaming across the world at a slant, making gold and orange leaves sparkle like jewels.  Last weekend, rain and fog descended, mists swirling around the turning trees with mysterious moodiness.  This afternoon, it is calm, restful, with soft clouds blanketing the richness of the day.

A row of young maples, some sporting outrageous hues, some still green, stands thin-trunked and mop-headed along the bank of a mirroring reservoir.

Cliche or not, I love autumn colors, leaves in their final glory before winter, the creative genius of God who loves to delight us simply just because.

I am thankful.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thankful for mornings at home



I love to be home in the morning.

What a joy, to wake up in the morning realizing, "I do not have to be anywhere this morning!"

Even more, what a joy to go to bed at night, laying my head down on my pillow while thinking, "I do not need to go anywhere tomorrow."

I am a homebody, and more than anything, I like to be home in the morning.

In the morning, I even like to be alone at home.  I like to sit in bed and read my Bible, and pray, and study, spreading books and notebooks across the queen-sized expanse in front of me.  Shawn says, "Why don't you use your study, or the kitchen table?"  But I love to start out studying on my bed.  Then I like to start a load of laundry, tidy the kitchen, sometimes empty the dishwasher.  This morning, I washed out the ceramic crock from my crockpot, which had been soaking overnight.  I like to take a shower without hyperventilating over whether I am running late, and then spend time trimming my nails, treating my dry skin, dabbling in essential oils.

Lately, I've had more places to go, so mornings at home have been especially precious.  I'm thankful to have people to see and reasons to get out, but I do dearly love my mornings at home.

I am thankful for mornings at home, and I was thankful today.



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thankful that God is able to do anything.



God can do anything.  He is all powerful.  Omnipotent.

God could keep His promise that Abraham would have an heir, from his own body, through Sarah, his wife who was almost as old as Abraham, when they were both in their nineties.

Then the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh at me and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?'  Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son."
~Genesis 18:13-14

God made substance out of nothing, creating the heavens and the earth.

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and your outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you.                                                  ~Jeremiah 32:17

God himself said,

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind.  Is anything too hard for me?                        ~Jeremiah 32:27

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear the Holy Son of God, and brought news that elderly, barren Elizabeth would also give birth to a miracle baby in her old age.  Gabriel said:

For nothing is impossible with God.                                                                            ~Luke 1:37

Jesus explained to His disciples how very difficult it is for a prideful rich man to enter the Kingdom of God--harder than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.  And, yet . . .

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
~Mark 10:21 (also in Matthew 19:26)

When a father desperately sought help from Jesus for his demon possessed son, he made the mistake of asking, "If you can do anything . . . "

" 'If you can?' " said Jesus.  "Everything is possible for him who believes."
~Mark 9:23

God is able to do whatever He wills to do.

Our God is in heaven.  He does whatever pleases Him.
~Psalm 115:3

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
~Daniel 3:17-18

This is my God, the Almighty Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.  I am thankful for Him.

To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.
~Jude 1:24-25







Saturday, November 4, 2017

Thankful that I can cook.



Yesterday I made soup.

I hadn't made soup for a long time, but yesterday I gloried in the free-form art of soup-making.

I made acorn squash soup with green pepper, celery, carrots, kale and corn.  Earlier in the week, Shawn had grilled chicken breast, so I diced some up and added that, too.  I seasoned my soup with rosemary, thyme, garlic, a dash of onion powder, and some cayenne.   I didn't have my own chicken broth, so I cheated and poured in a box of store-bought.  Pureed, oven-roasted acorn squash gave flavor, color and body to the stock.

In the end, it lacked something, but when I sprinkled my bowl with a generous portion of parmesan cheese, it suddenly transformed into a most delectable dish.  Both Shawn and I consumed two helpings.

These days, I sometimes get a little bit anxious, being gluten free, when I eat somewhere other than at home.  Lately, my heart has brimmed with thankfulness when I am at home, cooking my own safe food in my own dear kitchen.

Speaking of which, my kitchen is a dream to cook in.  For this I am truly thankful, because the process of remodeling the kitchen was rather a bad experience, and I had given up hope of ever having any but bad feelings about the whole shebang.  And yet, these days I love my kitchen, and I love being able to cook in it!  Glory be!

I'm thankful that I can cook, and thankful for my kitchen that I cook in.





Friday, November 3, 2017

Thankful for a great find at Aldi!



I love this soup.

Last year, I bought a case of it, and I ate every last drop.  Sometimes I use it as a base for homemade soup, but often I just pour up a mug, microwave, and enjoy.  It is a huge blessing during a lupus flare.

Unfortunately, this delicious soup is one of Aldi's seasonal items.  This means that they don't stock it regularly or consistently.  However, since the leaves have changed color, the corn has been harvested, and the temperatures have plummeted, I thought soup season might have arrived.

All through October, I combed Aldi in search of this soup.  Fruitlessly.

Yesterday Shawn and I had a long, gray day at home.  He was banging his head on problems he was trying to solve for work.  I was feeling lousy and frustrated with my unproductivity.  After the sun set, we decided, just to escape from the walls of the house, to drive to town and pick up a couple of staples I'd forgotten to get at Aldi the day before.

On our way down the long, dark freeway, I said, "And we can look for squash soup.  I keep looking, and they never have it, but we can look again while we are there."

We arrived at 7:15 p.m.  The parking lot was deserted.  Shawn asked, "How late are they open, anyway?"  They were open, but not busy.

Our cart had two bum front wheels, and was nearly impossible to steer.  Nevertheless, I successfully maneuvered it into the soup aisle, where once yet again, I visually scanned the cartons of beef, chicken and vegetable stock, and broth, and organic broth, hoping against hope to find my beloved soups: squash and roasted red pepper-tomato.

Wedged on the shelf, between large quantities of other soup items, a narrow section darkened to the umber and amber packages of the particular products I sought.

"There!" I gasped, in disbelief, flailing my arm towards the prize.  It took Shawn a moment to see what I saw.  The price was not posted.  No name or label graced the display, if you could call it a display.

We quickly scooped two cases of this soup into our cart, and then added one extra box each of butternut squash and roasted red pepper-tomato soup, for good measure.

Yes, we came home with 26 boxes of this soup.  I had one box of squash soup at home already, a different brand from a different store (with a much higher price).

So, now I have 27 boxes of soup.  I am busy doing math.  Starting Sunday, there are 17 weeks until the end of February.  If I ration the soup at 1.5 boxes per week, it should last until March 1.

I am so thankful that I found this soup.  I could not even believe it.  My delight welled up like bubbles in a tub.  All the way home, I kept vigorously patting Shawn's arm and thanking him for taking me out, after dark, when I had not felt like leaving home.  I grinned like a goose, and Shawn shared my joy.

I am thankful for this soup, for a good supply.

(Confession: I might buy more if I get another chance.  Spring is usually here by March, but I grew up in Minnesota, and I lived in New York for 25 years.  I might still like to have soup in March.  Also, Shawn might want some...)



Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thankful for pink roses



On our 30th Anniversary, this past June, Shawn proposed a brilliant idea: we would buy a rose bush and plant it in honor of the day.  We bought two, one for each side of our very romatic garage.

How I have enjoyed these roses!  They've been blooming up a storm through the harvest, challenging autumnal leaves with their fresh pink petals.

I'm thankful for my roses, thankful for plants that grow by the grace of God, thankful for neem oil to spray for prevention of diseases and pests, thankful for a summer anniversary that makes planting rose bushes possible, and thankful for 30 years with my best friend.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thankful for trips to see my daughters, and Northeastern apples



Today is November 1.  Thus begins my month of thankfulness.

Last month, I had the overwhelming joy of visiting both of my daughters in the Northeast.

At the beginning of October, we visited Laura in Ohio, and we went apple picking for her birthday!  She wanted to, because she said it reminded her of her birthdays during the Central New York years, when we often visited an apple orchard to commemorate the day.  She asked me to make her an apple crisp with the bounty, which was another joy, on so many levels.

At the end of October, we visited Shannon in Boston, where we walked over ten miles sightseeing, feasted on seafood, and bought the Empire apples pictured above.

Empire apples are not so easy to find, here in central Illinois.  They are tangy, juicy and crisp, excellent for eating and baking, both.

October, for me, will always be a pink month, because for me, October is the month when both my baby girls were born.  On Halloween this year, I donned a pink and white outfit replete with a pinkish-white necklace (faux pearls embellished with tiny, glittering faux diamonds) and my sparkly pink shoes.  I wore my outfit shamelessly amongst all the black and orange of the day, and my heart was light.

Red apple skin, white apple flesh, pink baby blankets.  My kind of October.

I am thankful that I got to see both of my daughters on their birthdays this year.  It was a luxury I do not take for granted.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The great exchange



But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
~Isaiah 53:5-6

For you know it was not with perishable things
such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life
handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ, 
a lamb without blemish or defect.
~1 Peter 1:18-19

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
~2 Corinthians 5:21

For Christ died for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
to bring you to God.
He was put to death in the body 
but made alive by the Spirit.
~1 Peter 3:18

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
by His wounds you have been healed.
For you were like sheep going astray,
but now you have returned
to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25



Friday, October 27, 2017

Faith



Faith is being thankful to God in advance.

In other words, faith is thanking God for what He will do in the future.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith believes that there is a God, and that He will do what He says He will do.

Faith is being thankful to God in advance.

Faith believes that God is good, and God is almighty.  Faith believes that God's plans are ultimately good and certain to come to pass.

Faith believes that God exists, that His command created the Universe, and that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:3, 6).

God rewards those who seek Him.

The belief in a future reward is a crucial element of faith.  Faith looks to the future and trusts in a future benefit.  Look at some examples from Hebrews 11:

  • Noah built the ark amidst ridicule and persecution, believing that it would benefit him in the end, and it did.  
  • Abraham left his homeland to go wherever God would lead him, "looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10)  In other words, Abraham left a known place, in faith that he was headed to a better place.  
  • Moses gave up a position of power in Egypt, believing that God's calling was greater and would result in something much more valuable than the treasures of Egypt.


None of the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11 received their ultimate reward in this life.  Some of them received intermediary rewards, but some did not.   Yet, all who live by faith receive the reward of eternal life with God through the atoning death of Christ.  "Atoning death" means that Christ's death satisfied the justice of God and makes payment--full restitution--for the damages that sin inflicts on God's creation.  In this way, Jesus purchased souls for God.  This is what we mean when we say we have been purchased by the blood of Jesus.

Putting your faith in Jesus means that you trust Jesus to extend His great salvation to you.  You believe in Him and trust that His death clears you from all guilt and condemnation.  You believe that His Holy Spirit comes to reside in your actual body for the rest of your life, changing you and preparing you for eternal life with God.  You believe that there will be a permanent, perfectly restored New Heaven and New Earth where you will live eternally in blissful perfection before the presence of the good God of beauty, light and life.  You look forward to this.  Looking forward to this helps you weather the trials of your present life on a fallen planet, with all its ups and downs, its disappointments, sorrows and separations.  You look forward to the end of sin and trouble.

You look forward.

Faith is being thankful to God in advance.

Faith is very difficult for those who have not mastered the idea of delayed gratification.  If you cannot see how it would benefit you to wash and fold your clothes now so they won't be dirty and wrinkled the next time you need to wear them, you will certainly struggle to understand how refraining from sinful self-indulgence today will deeply bless you later.

The measureless fathoms of future eternity are meaningless to one who cannot see beyond his immediate desire in a moment.  This is sad.  Yet, there is always hope for every person, because faith is a gift from God.  When God grants faith to someone, He enables that person to comprehend eternity and to perceive the reality of his own position in light of eternity.  There is hope for all people, because God has set eternity in the hearts of all people (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

When God gives a mortal the gift of faith and a new, immortal soul, He does it by way of opening the mortal's spiritual vision to a view of Truth.  This is why Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32)

Faith is when God grants you the spiritual sight to recognize Truth and grasp the concept of the eternal hereafter.   In a strange way, faith is when God lets you see into the future.  You don't see all the details clearly, of course, but He gives you enough sight to know that something is coming, something vast and momentous, and you realize you need Him desperately to survive.  Not only that, you discern that if you throw your lot in with Him, you are sure to thrive.

Faith is understanding that you need God's grace to survive and thrive.

Faith is knowing that with God's grace, you are certain to survive and thrive.

Faith is being thankful to God in advance.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hanging out at home

Well, yes, I've been sick.

Sigh.

So, I really ought to be writing this post over on my lupus blog.

Except, I don't want to write about being sick.

The sunshine in this house is quite remarkable.

The other day I took a hiatus from my bedroom and wandered down to the family room in the late afternoon.  Jumbled circles of golden light bounced against the closed blinds over the doors to the deck, teasing to get in.  I padded down two steps, across the floor.  Quiet in my pajamas, I stood by the blinds watching the light play for a moment, then turned the rod to open the slats.

Brightness flooded the room.  I could have focused on the deck, which sorely needs sweeping, but I chose to gaze beyond, through the foliage.  Trees grow along the swale that is sometimes almost a stream running down to the lake.  We have a maple and some pines, while our neighbor, across the swale, has a lovely weeping willow.  Willow fronds dangled and danced, dappled and dappling, all interspersed with slanted light shining through.  Across nearby plains and cornfields, wind flies fierce, but trees and rolling terrain in our neighborhood restrain and tame the gales.  Gusts still whirl, of course, but not as ferociously.  I watched a group of willow fronds tossed back and forth in the breeze.  Jungle-like, yet quintessentially Midwestern, luminescent yellow-green foliage swinging loose and free, sparkling.

There are so many things I want to write about, but the ideas get tangled up in too many words.  I want to write about being present, about reality, about not living a virtual life, not worshiping images of things.  I want to write about how the Sabbath year for cancelling debts and the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25, Deuteronomy 15) demonstrate the same principle as the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).  But I don't have the words for it.  Or rather, I have too many.  So I skip to the punch: Truth illuminated.  Unmerited favor.  Grace.

Grace.  Light.  Beauty.


Dear Lord Jesus, please shed your grace on us.  
Show us the light, the beauty that is You, 
the wonder of Truth, the gift of Wisdom.
Amen



Here are a few pictures I took today,
trying to capture the beauty of light,
and one picture Shawn took
with quite a remarkable capture of light.
Please look for the light.

Petals

Contrasts 

Noon 

Sunshine on a sunporch
(I thought I was better today, so I dressed and tried to go out,
but I landed back at home in comfy fleece lounge pants,
with my Bible and my dog.)

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done
from beginning to end.
~Ecclesiastes 2:25



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Very personal memories of God



God has graciously drawn me since I was very young.

I do not know why.

Why does He draw someone?  And why does someone else struggle so, to hear and to believe?

One of my first memories is of being a small baby, and being carried to my crib.  I did not want to be put into my crib, this I know.  I remember the feeling of dread, how I clung to the adult but was peeled off and placed in the barred crib despite my most passionate protests.  I remember remembering the horror of the ongoing routine of screaming and crying for someone to come back and get me, but nobody coming.  I remember the soft crunch of a plastic mattress liner under the sheet over the crib mattress, and the taste of the varnish on the wood of the crib.  I vividly remember the hot scratchiness of the screams that tore my throat, and the strain of clutching the crib rail, pulling myself up, striving, straining, flexing every muscle in panicked fury until I was in veritable pain.  And I remember a calm voice that spoke to me, although perhaps not in words, because I don't think I was verbal.  Maybe it was just an idea that washed over me from Someone outside of me.  "You don't have to fight," this Presence told me.  "It's okay.  You can just lie down.  It doesn't have to be like this."  I remember lying down, gently, almost as if an angel slipped me into a new position with comforting hands.  I clearly remember a comforting warmth that spread over me as I let go of my angst, my striving.  My tempest melted away in a blanket of warmth, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up to happy parents.

You may not believe it, but I remember this.  Somehow, I've always known it was God there that day, telling me, "You can just lie down.  It doesn't have to be like this."

I remember a day when, as a school-aged child, I sat cross-legged on the floor in the living room in front of the oak bookshelves that surrounded the descending staircase.  Green carpet, oak shelves, the World Book Encyclopedia volumes bound in black and white leather, the set of beloved Childcraft books.  I sat in that spot often, considering what to read next.  But that particular day, I felt the presence of God, and I wondered why I was so blessed.  Why did I have a nice, solid house and nice, clean clothes and good food to eat, when the world was full of suffering, starving people? Why did I get to go to church and learn about Jesus, when people all around the world had never heard of Him?  Why did I have a mom and dad who taught me about God?  Why did I have a bookshelf right in front of me with numerous Bibles in various translations at my fingertips?  Why indeed?  I thought of the maps inside the pages of the volumes of the encyclopedia, and I imagined all the distant places and people groups they represented, and I thought about the largeness of the world, even the Universe.  In those moments, the Spirit of God was doing something in me, opening my mind to a vastness beyond myself.  Not that I understood it, but I was aware of it.  I pondered the Universe, and how I was so small within it, and yet so inexplicably blessed.

I remember being a bit older, a young teenager, walking home from school with friends.  I was sharing about something that had happened, something I didn't like.  I don't remember the particulars, but it had to do with authority and punishment, and I was upset.  The others listened sympathetically.  They were kind to me.  Supportive.  "That isn't fair at all," they said.  "You don't have to accept that."  They admonished me to fight, to resist, to rebel.  It felt good.  I felt validated.  And then, suddenly, I realized the hollowness of it.  Although I do not remember the exact subject, the words, the details of the situation, I remember a sudden awareness that it was wrong.  I remember, accompanying the awareness, the curving slope of the green autumn grass down to the road (if you know Anoka, it was Green Street).  This part of the memory is as clear as the day it happened.  That Presence--the one that had been there since I was a baby--was suddenly in me again, and although the words of my friends had been soothing and affirming, I knew that I could not listen to them, that they were not right.  I had a fleeting thought about how it was a shame that I couldn't go on being validated, there on the green, grassy lawn.  The regret was followed by a chilling sensation as I understood how strong the temptation was to believe a lie.  I don't remember what happened afterwards, in my physical life, with the people.  I don't remember how the conversation may have closed.  All I know is that God was there, and He pointed me away from the alluring validation of my sin, from words and ideas that seemed so appealing, but were not true.  They simply were not true.

Those are three specific, memorable times when God communicated with me as a child.  To this day, I do not know why He did.

Why should I be blessed to be able to sense God's presence and respond to Him?  Why should I be blessed to love His Word, and through His Word, Him?  Oh, dear Lord, may others have this blessing.  Please open hearts, as I know you can, as only you can.






Monday, October 9, 2017

Jesus, the Word of God



Once I wrote a post called Sin, the Promise, the Law and the Word of God.  (If you click on that highlighted text, it will link you to it.) It is a piece wherein I hashed out some of my most frustrating questions, and somehow arrived at answers that I found satisfying.

It's a post where I explain my understanding of the story of the Bible, in broad scope.  Although it is not exhaustive, it tackles certain questions that often seem to go unanswered.  Sometimes we flail awkwardly with regard to the Law, or the Torah, not grasping what we should do with this ancient and original section of the Bible, and why it is in the Bible.

Over the weekend, Shawn and I visited one of our children's churches, and heard an excellent message on the Transfiguration from Mark 9.  (Okay, I'm sorry.  This is an abrupt transition.  Please bear with me.)

In Sunday's sermon, the pastor pointed us to Jesus, standing on the mountain where He was transfigured.  Mark tells us:

His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus . . . Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to Him!" (Mark 9:3-4, 7)

Other teachers have pointed out that the enveloping cloud signifies the presence of Holy God, just as it did on Sinai long ago in Exodus:

The Lord said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you" . . . On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.  Everyone in the camp trembled.  Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord descended on it with fire.  The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder.  Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (Exodus 19:9, 16-19)

I saw for the first time the absolute parallel of what God was doing here.  It reminded me of a paragraph I'd written in Sin, the Promise, the Law and the Word of God:

The Law was the first revealed Word of God, but Jesus was the ultimate revealed Word of God (see John 1).  What the Law showed us in part on tablets of stone, Jesus showed us completely in a life lived in the flesh.  What the Law promised, Jesus fulfilled.

No wonder the story of the Transfiguration is repeated throughout Matthew, Mark and Luke, while John alludes to it in John 1:14.  This is a life-altering event, where God transfers the authority of His Word to the promised prophet that Moses had spoken of:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.  You must listen to Him.  For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."  The Lord said to me: "What you say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account." (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)

Humanity could not face the presence of God and live, so Jesus Christ humbled Himself to become one like us, from among our brothers, born a human baby from a human mother.  He took on human flesh so He could bring us the living Word of God in a form that we could grasp.

Jesus said:

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25)
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.  I know that His command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. (John 12:49-50)
I and the Father are one.  (John 10:30)

Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise, the source of life, the true word of God, the hope of all creation.  Jesus is everything.  

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ.  And so through Him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)

. . . through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4)

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. (John 3:17)

. . . which leads us to Romans 8:1 --

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

So anyway, that is what I learned this weekend.  The Transfiguration shows us how God glorified His Son, Jesus Christ, and demonstrated that He was the promised prophet who would speak God's words.  Jesus is the one we must listen to.  Jesus comes to us with the words of life.  Jesus fulfills every promise and opens heaven to all who will believe.

And of course this leads us again to the gift of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, who comes to dwell in the hearts of every believer.  Jesus doesn't leave us as orphans, but sends His own Holy Spirit to abide in us, uniting with our spirits so that we are one with Christ, who is one with God. (John 14:18-20)

That, however, is moving on to another subject.



(All Bible quotes that I typed out in this post were from the NIV84; underlined emphasis is mine.)


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday night

I'm feeling very thankful tonight.

Because this handsome, heroic guy


helped me clean windowsills today.

And by "helped," I mean he manned the vacuum.  Actually, first he used the central vac, until it wouldn't reach anymore.  Then he journeyed down and retrieved his vacuum from the basement, to finish every far nook and corner.  He did such a good job that when I came behind him with spray cleaner and paper towels to polish the next layer, there wasn't much left to wipe off.

We've had an incredible number of spiders this year, spiders and webs by the dozen, every single night.  I haven't been able to keep up.  Then I got seriously behind.  My windows were terrifyingly infused with cloudy white webbing, dangling black egg sacs, and the crusty remains of fly entrees.  Whenever I thought, "I ought to open up those windows and get after that," my next thought was immediately, "Nope.  Not when I'm home alone, I'm not getting after that."

My HERO helped me overcome this.

Spider-extinguisher.  Web-obliterator.  Insect-refuse-eradicator.  Rescuing hero and lover of my soul.

Thank you.

Fresh air blew through the house for the rest of the day.  The sills gleam, shining white.

It was a good day.  I will sleep well.






Thursday, September 28, 2017

A question from BSF Lesson #2 (Romans)

In Bible Study Fellowship, we studied Romans 1:18-32 this past week.  This is the classic Biblical text that addresses the progression of rebellious man into increasingly destructive sexual sins.

One of the questions in our lesson was, "What are some of the reasons God links the sin of idolatry to sexual immorality?"

A number of people reacted to that question with confusion and disinterest.

It was a good question, though, and leads to a much better understanding of sexual issues.

In my attempt to share my answer, apparently I failed to be clear or convincing, because when I was done, one woman in the group said, "Well, I don't know what the question means, but I just think sin is sin, and that's all there is to it."

It made me sad.  I think this is part of the reason why it is hard to reach those who have been drawn in by sexual sin.  Telling them, "Sin is sin, and you are sinful," is not a productive approach.

On our lesson sheet, the BSF question: "What are some of the reasons God links the sin of idolatry to sexual immorality?" suggested we look up the following texts for "help" answering the question.


  • Genesis 1:26-27 (God created man in His own image, male and female in the image of God.)
  • Genesis 2:24-25 (Man and woman are to leave their parents and be united into one flesh; the first man and woman were naked and unashamed.)
  • Mark 10:8-9 (Restates that a man and a woman will be joined into one flesh, joined by God and not to be separated by man.)
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (Talks about who will not inherit the kingdom of God, and lists sexual sins, including homosexuality.)
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 ("Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body.")
I'm just saying, but in that list, the only texts that actually apply to the question are the first and the last.  The three in the middle only confuse the issue.  They may show Biblical evidence that homosexuality is contrary to God's design, but they don't bear any weight on why God links idolatry with sexual immorality.  The question was, "What are some of the reasons God links the sin of idolatry to sexual immorality?"

Besides pointing to some unhelpful texts, BSF left out some texts that would have been extremely helpful:

  • Isaiah 43:6b-7 ("Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth--everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.")
  • The book of Hosea.  (This book is about spiritual adultery, allegorically explained through human adultery.  Hosea 3:1 somewhat encapsulates the theme:  "The Lord said to me, 'Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.' ")
  • Jeremiah 2-3, 13:22-27 (Graphic descriptions, comparing the idolatry of Israel to sexual unfaithfulness.)
  • Ephesians 5:31-32 (" 'For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church.")
  • James 4:3-4 ("When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.  You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God?")
  • Revelation 19:7 ("Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.")
(All emphases were added by me.)

Maybe in reading these texts, you are starting to synthesize an understanding of where I am going, before I spell it out.  I hope so!  I want so badly to answer this question simply and clearly.

Here are my points:

1.  God created humanity in His image.  He even created both maleness and femaleness, somehow, in His image.  We are created in the image of God for the purpose of glorifying God by reflecting His glory into His creation.  Reflecting the image of God is a Big Deal.  We are only little mirrors, little moons, reflecting the sun. We have no business messing with or distorting the Image of God.

2.  God created the male-female relationship to mirror the God-humanity relationship.  God is a God of faithfulness, relationship and covenant love.  God is always faithful to His promises, His covenants.  God has made a covenant with His people.  Jehovah is the husband of Israel, and Christ is the husband of the church.  God keeps His covenants.  Likewise, it is God's desire that a man and a woman remain faithful to the promises they make to one another when they covenant in marriage.

3.  When we see physical adultery among the people of earth, we can understand the pain it causes.  This should help us understand the extreme devastation that results from spiritual adultery, when people turn away from the one true God and look instead to worthless things for their hope, satisfaction, peace, joy and sustenance.

4.   Sexuality can become an idol, when we look to it for fulfillment and pleasure outside of God's will.  When we try to use sexual intimacy as a replacement for spiritual intimacy with God, we are bound for big trouble, although we may not realize our predicament right away.

5.  Sexual sin is especially insidious.  When a murder is committed, a dead body makes the problem fairly obvious.  Likewise with theft, there is a visible loss of property; someone's means have been diminished.  When sexual sin occurs between two consenting parties, and particularly if there are neither betrayed spouses nor children involved, it may be less obvious what the problem is.  This is why 1 Corinthians 6 tells us, "he who sins sexually sins against his own body."  We may not be able to see, immediately, what the harmful result is.  It is an invisible problem, a damaged soul and spirit.  Nevertheless, the damage is deep.  When we depart from God's directions for sexual relationships, we lacerate our purity and faithfulness.  Thus, the image of God in us becomes disfigured.

After considering these points, we can reconsider the question:

"What are some of the reasons God links the sin of idolatry to sexual immorality?"

Here are some reasons:
  • Both idolatry and sexual immorality are about turning away from God and rebelling against His authority.
  • Sexual immorality breaks down the image of Himself that God designed within mankind.  Thus, sexual immorality reinforces fallen humanity's inclination to turn increasingly farther away from God and seek satisfaction, pleasure and happiness elsewhere. 
  • The definition of idolatry is: seeking satisfaction, pleasure and happiness in something other than God, while turning away from God (or sometimes even while trying to pay lip service to God on the side).
When sexual sin disfigures the image of God in man--the glorious image that man was created to reflect and display--man loses his worth (see 2 Kings 17:15, Jeremiah 2:5, Hosea 9:10).

It begins with a failure to trust God and believe that He knows what is best for us, even if something forbidden seems like it would be very pleasurable (remember how "good for food and pleasing to the eye" that lethal fruit in the garden seemed?).  As people turn away from the wise counsel of God, prioritizing their own opinions and desires, it is as though they turn off a light.

When you turn off the light, you are left in the dark.

That is what Romans 1:21 is talking about.  "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

So, Romans 1:24-28 tells us three times that God "gave them over" to what they were seeking.  God never forces His way on us.  He will pursue you, because He loves you.  However, He will never coerce you.

God gives you what you want.  Woe to you if you want destructive things.  However, even in giving you over, God often opens your eyes to the devastation of your choices in time for you to see the resulting wreckage and repent.  He wants you back.  He calls you back.  He sent Jesus to get you back.

Here's one of my current favorite verses:

I will heal their waywardness 
and love them freely, 
for my anger has turned away from them.
Hosea 14:4



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What do you do?



What do you do
when you are just that tired,
oh so tired,
and your neck hurts
because you threw it out whilst fumbling a tiny pot of eye cream
during your morning ablutions?

When you are parched with thirst
but too tired to get a drink,
because it's so much work to find a way
to balance the glass
and avoid leaving wet rings on furniture.

When you need a walk
but a walk sounds ghastly,
 although you usually like walks,
but not today
in this sweltering Indian summer heat.

Too tired to type.
The letters keep coming up wrong.

Too tired to read, 
but perhaps you will try.

Too tired to initiate a project.
Too tired to make an appointment.
Too tired to carry the laundry downstairs.

Yet, the sun is high,
shining up a bright and fancy day
totally inappropriate for napping.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Words coming together



Many years ago, I started to pray for joy.

I did this out of selfishness and self-defense, primarily because I was afraid to pray for patience.  I'd heard stories about praying for patience.  "If you pray for patience," everybody said, "watch out!  You will get all kinds of trials, to test your patience."

Of course I wanted to avoid trials.  So I decided never to pray for patience, but to pray for joy instead.  I didn't think there could be a downside to praying for joy.

Well.  I had a lot to learn.  I could probably write a whole series of books about everything I've learned related to this.  And that is not saying that I learned everything there is to know--I'm sure that I've only learned a small fraction of what there is to know.

So, instead of trying to tell you "everything," I'm going to distill it to a few words:

Pride.

Dignity.

Humility.

Grace.

Gratitude.

Joy.

Pride is the problem.  Pride is putting yourself first, focusing on your feelings, and working hard to control your circumstances.  Pride is not so much thinking that you are better than other people, although that's what we automatically associate with pride.  Rather, pride is assuming that your perspective is correct and your feelings are very important.  Most of us do this without thinking about it; it's so automatic, it's invisible to us.  That's Satan's favorite.  He loves to keep us blinded to our sins.  Pride is a sin--a very fundamental, basic sin--that hinders our relationship with God.

Dignity is what we should have instead of pride.  Dignity means that we have an appropriate, accurate view of who we are and what is called for in our behavior.  When we have dignity, we act with respect for others and respect for ourselves--true respect, dignity, acting with grace even in difficult circumstances--because this is who we are.  And who are we?  We are children of God, created by God, redeemed by Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Dignity knows Whose we are, and carries His banner like an ambassador.

Humility is the opposite of pride, but it is inherent in dignity.  Humility is understanding that God is sovereign, and we are not.  Humility is realizing that none of us are the center of the universe, God is.  Humility is realizing that God does not need us, but we need Him, desperately.  Humility is understanding the way we have been born mutated by sin, and in need of repair by the Master Creator of the Universe.  Humility understands that God created people to glorify Him--to love Him and to reflect His glory into the created Universe.  Humility also understands that we--created men and women--have pridefully rebelled against God, and thus failed to fulfill His purpose for us.  Thus, humility understands that we deserve nothing from God except destruction.  When something is too broken to fulfill its purpose, the normal conclusion is to throw it away.

Grace is what God gives us in place of our deserved destruction.  We cannot understand grace if we do not understand what we truly deserve.  If we assume that we deserve heaven (or even just "all the good things"), then "grace"--under that assumption--simply would mean that God is nice and comes through to provide what we thought we ought to have received anyway.  But if we understand that God had every right and every reason to crumple us up and discard us, that He could have started over with a new, unblemished creation, but instead He chose to die for us, in our place, while we were sinners, so He could purchase us back from Satan and embark on a massive restoration project, then we begin to grasp what grace means.  Grace is undeserved, by definition.

We can't understand grace if we don't have any humility.

But when, through humility, we grasp the concept of grace, we arrive at gratitude. Thanksgiving.  Gratitude.

Gratitude arises when we receive something outrageously generous, something we could never have hoped to attain or afford, outside of an intervening miracle.  We are thankful when we brush the edge of destruction and the hand of God delivers us into life, instead of death.

When we are truly thankful, to the depth of our being, in the reverberating center of our hearts, then we experience joy.  Joy comes from gratitude and thanksgiving.

Joy is the fruit that grows in a grateful heart.

A grateful heart comes from an accurate understanding of what we deserve, and what we are not entitled to.  In other words, gratitude originates in humility.

Humble people experience joy, and (sadly) prideful people cannot.  That's another one of Satan's lies: "Have pride in yourself.  You are important.  You are where the buck stops.  You can call the shots, and anybody who tries to stop you from calling the shots is a bad person.  Seize your rights!  This is how you pursue happiness!"  But it simply doesn't work that way.  Satan is a liar, and pride will never bring you more than a flashing glimmer of happiness.

Pride is the pitfall.

Dignity is the escape route.

Humility is the cousin of dignity and the key to appreciating grace, which ultimately results in gratitude.

And gratitude leads to joy.

Words coming together.

In conclusion, here is a short analysis of the result of praying for joy: You will get the pride beat out of you.  But it's a really good thing.  It's worth it.



Also, you'll find all of this in the book of Philippians, in the Bible, if you are inclined to look.  I realized this today at church, as our pastor is preaching through Philippians.