Saturday, June 30, 2012

Most Important Moment?

If you had to pinpoint the most important moment in Jesus´ life...what would it be? Can His important events be separated from each other?

What is the most important moment in Jesus' life?

-His virgin conception?
-His birth?
-His teaching at the temple?
-His baptism?
-His temptation?
-His crucifixion?
-His resurrection?
-His ascension?
-His second coming?

I would probably say His crucifixion and resurrection. Many people were born, baptized, and tempted. Many people taught and died. But only Jesus died for our sins *and* rose from the dead.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Prayer Like None Other

My freshman year, I went on a mission trip to Florida during my college's spring break. My mission was to minister to the students who went to party. I was part of a group giving free rides from place to place with the city. We started up conversations on the street. We served a free pancake breakfast each day. It was on those streets that I learned how to pray like I never have before.

You see, I was a college freshman. I was also highly unfamiliar with the party scene. My previous experience with alcohol was champagne at weddings. Then I went to the party capital of Spring Break.

We were taught to prayer walk, to take what we saw and pray about it as we walked. We would call in specific requests that would be uploaded to the ministry's website, so others could pray (both in the ministry's prayer room and around the world). We prayed when we were sad, when we were angry, when we were scared. We prayed when we were happy, when we were discouraged, when we were out of our depth. We prayed, fervently, passionately, lovingly, mischievously. I learned what it meant to pray continuously.

While I was there, I would pray the prayer typed below, as best I could (I didn't have it memorized). But I would pray for the people I would encounter and for God to surround us with His presence. It was a little intimidating to be walking the alcohol-laced streets to do ministry. I wanted Christ to be with me, within me, before me, behind me, beside me, and speaking through me.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger,

-St. Patrick

This is a prayer close to my heart, because it reminds me of a time when I learned so much about prayer and myself. Now, as a senior, in a more familiar, comfortable environment, I see this prayer and remember its lessons. For me, this is a prayer like none other.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Minimalizing to Live Maximumly

I love minimalizing.

It started when I was a child. Every year when we changed our winter and summer clothes, we would try on all the clothes about to fill our dressers and closets. We made sure we liked the styles still and that the clothes still fit. Clothes that did not meet these criteria would be passed on to the next oldest girl cousin.

When I came to college, I learned that I had a love for thrift shopping (i.e. thrifting). But when I started regularly thrifting, I began to use an item in-item out policy. If I wanted a new book, when I got home, I'd set aside one to donate. If I wanted a new clothing article, one would be leaving the house within days.

Just after a year of marriage with my husband, we moved to our second apartment. And we had a lot of stuff to move. We settled into a bigger apartment and our stuff filled up the spaces quickly.

Our campus ministry's annual yard sale was coming up and I started to read a book on minimalizing (Miss Minimalist). As I looked through our home, I saw extra things, needless things, cluttering things. We had a bigger place, but no extra room. We had a closet full of stuff at my parents house and a converted (it's Baptist now) coal room at his parents full of stuff. The minimalizing began.

I took at good hard look at the stuff that we have. I would take all the items out of an area and only put back the things that we wanted/needed/used. Two containers of bathroom products got converted to one. Overflowing bookshelves were able to hold all their contents. Crafts that the optimist in me got, only to realize that I didn't even like doing that craft, were removed from my craft area.

I had a three pile sorting system: keep it in the house, keep it in storage, or donate it. Room by room fell to my plan. As I sorted through each area, I noticed that they still looked full, but I had better access to things. I still had books, but they were my favorites. I still had silverware, but they all matched!!! We still have way too many blankets, but we have less now. :-)

So what are some benefits to minimalizing?
1. Less stuff to clean, wash, or deal with.
2. Someone else can use, enjoy, or treasure your stuff (if you donate it).
3. Potentially more money for you (if you sell it).
4. Less busy surfaces.
5. Not feeling bogged down by stuff.

How did I minimalize?
1. Select one small area of the house each day. (It might be one cabinet, one bookcase, one drawer).
2. Take everything out of that area and put back only what you want to go there.
3. Decide what you're doing with the stuff that doesn't go there.
4. Put away, store, or donate the stuff you don't want in that specific area of the house.
5. Repeat on other areas of the house.

My husband and I have used this system to de-clutter our lives. Our house is still full, but there is more room to do things and less things that we don't use. Our stuff has a place it goes and there's less stuff to put away. We have a very comfortable life and home, but by having less stuff, deciding on a game night, movie night, craft projects, clothes, and other decisions are made easier by not having so many options.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Saved, Sanctified, Set Free

"I've been saved, sanctified, and set free."

Sometimes I enjoy taking common "Christianese" phrases and translating them. What do I mean when I say a phrase like the one above?

I am saved...God has rescued me from danger, harm, or injury. He kept me safe, intact, unhurt, and preserved. He kept me from being lost.

I am sanctified...God set me apart as sacred. He purified me and freed me from sin. As a sanctified person, I am blessed, hallowed, and anointed. I am made holy, for I have been consecrated (set apart as sacred)

I am set free...God has released me, liberated me. I am not a slave, to my sinful nature, to the world, or to the devil. I have been given personal liberty. God released me from bondage; He delivered me.

Now for the tough question? Am I living like I am saved, sanctified, and set free?

I am saved at one point in my life. I am sanctified throughout the rest of my life. I am set free for the rest of my life.

Do I act like I am saved? Do I live in fear or do I have a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2nd Tim. 1:7). Now that I am saved, do I return to the danger I've been rescued from?

Am I being sanctified? Is my behavior holy? Am I set apart for God or am I polluting myself with the garbage of the world (garbage in this case being media that does not direct my thoughts to God).

Am I living like I'm set free? Am I still obeying my sinful nature, the world, or the devil, even though Jesus has freed me? The door is unlocked, but did I exit the room?

What does the life of a person saved, sanctified, and set free look like?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ways to Be an Answer to Prayer

I read the Book of Common Prayer. I love it. I love the connectedness of it. I love the cadence of it. I love the celebration of God in ways I would not of have thought of. I love the community of it. Now, I'm not always big on community (which is one reason why there will be a blog forthcoming on the importance of Christian community). Even though I'm a little iffy on community, I began to view community in a positive light with the Book of Common Prayer.

A lot of people pray. Some more than others. We want God to answer our prayers. God uses His children to answer prayers. How can we become an answer to prayer (ours or others)?

At the end of each month, the Book of Common Prayer gives 5 tips on being and becoming the answer to our prayers.

Do you have a little extra money each month (after tithing) that can get food to give to a hungry person who is praying for God to meet their needs?

Can you be a friend to a lonely person who is praying for someone to talk to each week?

Praying to end poverty? Can you donate to a poverty-fighting group?

Ask how you can help those who are struggling.
Do something without expecting payment in return.
Say “please” and “thank you.”
Set aside one day each month to put yourself in another’s shoes-who has less food, money, transportation, or freedom.
Cut back on your spending.
Take care of the earth: plant, don’t litter, conserve.
Help those who ask for it.
Get involved with organizations that help the poor of other countries.
Turn off the noise.
Visit with the lonely.
Perform a random act of kindness.
Learn where you get your food, clothes, or stuff from and the conditions in that place. Pray for the people there.
Pray for change.
Pray for leaders.
Pray to be acting in God’s plan.
Take a break from convenience items and remember those who don’t have them.
Donate items.
Challenge the status quo.
Leave your comfort zone.
Ask for forgiveness.
Give forgiveness.
Tell people how they have helped you.
Revel in nature.

Many of the monthly tips given by the authors involve being intentional about how we live our lives. They involve waiving a typical convenience in order to remember those who don´t have as much as we do.

What are other ways to intentionally live in faith?

See: Claiborne, Shane; Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan; Okoro, Enuma (2010-11-09). Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (Kindle Locations 1648-1653, 2532-2537, 3367-3371, 4215-4221, 5379-5384, 6273-6278, 7123-7131, 7994-8000, 8917-8921, 9731-9735, 10599-10604, 11449-11454). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Christmas Challenge

Each year, one of my campus ministers has us fill out a worksheet. It asks us to estimate our weekly expenditures in fun/leisure categories. Eating out, non-water beverages, entertainment, etc. Things that are luxuries, not necessities. After it's filled out, we multiple by 50 to get a rough estimate of how much we spend on luxuries each year. Then we add up everyone's estimates and compare it to our summer missions fund goal. We typically spend double, triple, or quadruple the amount of our goal. This exercise puts things in perspective.

For all that I joke about being a poor, starving college student, I'm not. I am able to buy everything that I *need* as well as many *wants*.

I recently read a book called "Christmas is not Your Birthday" by Michael Slaughter. The basic premise is that Christmas is *not* our birthdays, but we buy all these gifts for ourselves and our loved ones. What gifts do we give Jesus on His birthday? Do we act like His followers in the midst of a crowded store?

America's culture is one of consumerism and materialism. The Advent season, which is supposed to be a season of anticipation, hope, and waiting, is lost in the shopping, rushing around, and stress that is tied to Christmas. Mr. Slaughter challenges people to buy Jesus a gift for Christmas; after all, we celebrate it as His birthday.

What do we give Jesus on His birthday?

What about feeding the hungry, watering the thirsty, clothing the naked, inviting in the stranger, caring for the sick, or visiting those in prisons? The things we do for "the least of these," we do for Jesus (according to Matthew 25). Look through the Bible; who is mentioned repeatedly as someone God cares about? Widows and orphans (James 1:27). God is the father to the fatherless and defends the widows (Psalm 68:5). He created laws about harvesting to provide for those without a father or husband (search for gleaning in your Bible).

If I love God, I will obey His commands (see John 14:15 & 21 and 1 John 5:2-4  and 2 John 1:6). If I love God, I care about the things/people He cares about. If I love God, I make it my work to carry out His work. If I love God, I love those He loves.

So what's the challenge for Christmas?

For every dollar you spend on yourself, friends, and family this Christmas, give the same amount to a Christian organization that helps the poor, the widowed, and the orphans. (this challenge came from Mr. Slaughter's book).

What would happen if this Christmas, I donated food and served at a soup kitchen?

What would happen if I bought my gifts from organizations that help people get out of poverty (see 10,000 villages)?

What would happen if instead of buying gifts for my family, I bought gifts in their honor to give to those less fortunate (at Heifer International, I can buy an animal that will be given to a family who can use it to make money. i.e. buy a chicken and they can sell its eggs)?

What would happen if instead of buying brand-new gifts, I thrift-shopped for them instead?

What would happen if I asked for my gifts to help others instead?

What would happen if I donated a dollar to an official charity for every dollar I spent this Christmas?

Is it possible that this may be the best Christmas ever?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Sabbath Rest

Sabbath: a period of rest.

Why is it important to keep the Sabbath? 
God commands us to keep the Sabbath in the 10 commandments (see Exodus 20:10-11 and Deut. 5:12-15). It's repeated throughout the Bible (see Leviticus 19:3 and 30 and Leviticus 26:2)

Guidelines of Sabbath
Work for six days, rest on seventh. You do not work on the Sabbath. Leviticus 23:3
Allow animals and workers (slave/foreigner) to rest. Exodus 23:12
It is a holy day. Exodus 35:1-3
Rest, for God rested on the 7th day. Exodus 31:12-18

Keeping the Sabbath is a serious matter. Life-or-Death in fact!! Numbers 15:32-36
The Sabbath is a covenant/promise/sign between man and God. Ezekiel 20:12 and 20
Keeping the Sabbath is a way to have joy. Isaiah 58:13-14
The person who keeps the Sabbath is blessed. Isaiah 56:1-2
Sabbath-rest is a method to be adopted. Isaiah 56: 6-8
Sabbaths are between us and God. Don’t let people judge how you keep the Sabbath. Colossians 2:16-19

How did Jesus act on the Sabbath?
He healed people!! (man with the abnormal swelling) (invalid by the pool) (man born blind) (shriveled hand man) (shriveled hand man again) (crippled woman) (shriveled hand man again again)
It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11-12)
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (see here, and here, and here!!)

God planned extra rest into our lives, in addition to the Sabbath    
Sabbath Year (Exodus and Leviticus)
Day of Atonement
Feast of Trumpets

A Psalm for the Sabbath

What does the Sabbath mean to you?

Can we afford to rest? Can we afford to *not* rest?

Are we to approach it rigidly with legalistic rules? Are we to to approach it with the goal to do good and to rest?

What is work for you? Does work mean the same thing for the different people? Does work mean the same thing to the same person at different times?

Are you weary? Rest.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Savoring the Good Ole Days

Do you remember when....?

There's a certain amount of joy in traversing down memory lane. Friendships that drifted apart can be revisited. Warm, fond memories are awoken. A sense of personal growth is achieved.

At the same time, there's danger in memory lane. Some memories become distorted, remembered more fondly than the reality. If the dull, boring, or unpleasant moments are forgotten, the past can get put on a pedestal.

How are we supposed to savor the good ole days without idolizing them? How do we remember the past while continuing to live in the present?

Liz's Anti-Idolizing Remembering Plan:
1. Do take time to look through old scrapbooks and pictures. Do take time to watch old videos and laugh.
2. Continue creating new memories in the present.
3. Plan to create new memories in the future. Anticipate this.
4. Take your memories with a grain of salt: did I really enjoy an event in the fond way I recorded it? For instance, I fondly remember my first Indiana house, but only having air in 2 of the 5(ish) rooms of the house was warm in the summer.
5. Think of ways to bring back aspects of the past that were positive and beneficial. My husband's family grew up having restaurant pizza a few Fridays a month. If my husband misses that tradition, we can bring it back.

The past will always hold fond memories, but things were also hard in the past. Modern technology has made life easier. Think A/C, heating, refrigerators, cell phones, skype, cars, and the list goes on.

If you miss some aspect of the good ole days, bring it back. If you miss snacks and fellowships after church, bring in the snacks. If you miss technology free romantic walks, take your spouse on a walk, but silence or leave the phones at home. If you miss the home cooked foods, make some.

Savor your past, it has shaped your present, but don't forget to live in the present and don't forget to anticipate the future.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Must Become Less

When people were pointing out to John the Baptist that Jesus was gaining popularity, he replied "He must become greater, I must become less."

For some reason, when I hear this verse, I start thinking of sustainability. I think of countries that are poorer than mine and how, if we are to all live on this earth long-term (instead of starting off-planet colonies), the world needs to reduce its consumption as a whole.

There is a website that measures how many earths would be needed if everyone lived like me (or you). How Many Earths Quiz. Now I don't think I am too shabby in the living sustainably...until I take the quiz. Personally, humans would need 5.46 earths if everyone lived like I did. I only exceeded the US average in one category (apparently our food is really taking a lot of resources). That's with Lucas and I rarely eating out, with home-cooked meals with food bought from Aldi's, with unplugging appliances that aren't used, with having a (small) garden, with thrift shopping, with using some more "green" light fixtures, with keeping our house 65 degrees in the winter & 80 degrees in the summer, with recycling pop cans & cardboard & paper.

Nonetheless, we drive two cars, we do turn on the a/c and heat, we do use a washing machine & dryer (despite the clothes line outside), we do ignore the other trash that we don't recycle, we do occasionally eat out, we do have 3 computers in our two-person household.

Lucas and I will be moving to another country (by the grace of God). When we move, I expect to learn just how many conveniences I had back here in the US.

What does this have to do with John's response? I am an average American; there are those who live much more extravagantly, with a much larger number of earths needed if everyone lived that way. God cares about the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed. If I want these people God cares about to be out of poverty, but there's no more resources to give them what I have while keeping what I have, I must decrease my consumption, so that theirs can increase. I can make do with less, so they can have more.

I know, I know. You worked hard for your money and for your stuff. But when did stuff become more important than people? Americans have a very high standard of living, but sometimes, that makes it hard to distinguish needs from wants. We are stewards of the earth, but when the end of the world occurs, I think we're gonna give a broken earth back to God.

Does our lifestyles suffer when we eat homemade foods? Our waistlines don't.
Are we deprived when we find a deal at a yard sale or thift shop?
Do our relationships suffer when we consume less tv, less internet, and less movies?
Does a slower pace through life destroy the journey?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Without Ceasing

The Christian life is a mixture of solitude and community. On one hand, prayer is personal: Abba Father is the equivalent of Daddy and God spoke face-to-face with Moses. On the other hand, prayer is communal: *OUR* Father in heaven, Jesus is where 2+ are gathered, prayer is above national boarders. We are directed to at minimum 2-3 times a day (In Judaism, people pray alone in the morning, wherever they were at noon, and with their families at night); Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing. With those directions, we'll be praying around other people at least, if not with others.

Typically, when I hear "pray without ceasing," I think of these super formal events that stop typical life. In Jesus' and Paul's time, prayer was different. Devout Jews would offer up to God hundreds of prayers in a day. Most prayers were one sentence. These prayers were specific and were prayers of giving thanks and blessing God. In Jesus' day, most of these prayers started with "Blessed is He...." A few centuries later, it was decided that the opening phrase should be "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe..." These blessings, these prayers, were designed to thank God for specific things and events in our lives.

When it rains, "Blessed is He that renews the earth."

When it thunders, "Blessed is He whose strength and power fill the world."

When it lightnings, "Blessed is He who created the earth."

When the sun shines, "Blessed is He who sends light to the world."

When you get dressed, "Blessed is He who clothes the naked."

When you see a rainbow, "Blessed is He who remembers His covenant, is faithful to His covenant, and keeps His word."

When you see something of beauty, "Blessed is He who has such things in His world."

These are just a sampling of the blessings the Jews sprinkled throughout their days and what would have came to Paul's mind when he directed us to pray without ceasing. More blessings can be found at Hebrew 4 Christians.

I really like this concept of blessings prayers. It has the potential to keep me grateful, to keep me aware of God's perfect goodness, to keep me from slipping into auto-pilot. It is steeped in history and has a comfortable cadence.

I like the history and connectedness these blessing prayers have. I've been praying through the book of common prayer. As I pray the prayers in it, my mind thinks about the other people who are currently praying these prayers with me, in my time. I think about those who have prayed these prayers in the past and those who will do so in the future. I think about how God is not limited to one time like we are and how He might hear all of these prayers, spoken by the saints of the ages, at the same time in different languages and accents. I think about how beautiful that must be and I rejoice in my ability to be connected into God's family.

I've learned that I like liturgy and its history, but at the same time, I like to know *why* we do a certain thing a certain way. For instance, I discovered when I was questioning why it is reverent to stand when the scripture is read, that the tradition started in the Old Testament, at a synagogue, but I wasn't told why those worshipers did that. At least I established where it started.

What are things you are thankful for? How can you turn them into blessing prayers? The "formula" is simple: "Blessed is He..." or "Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe..." or "Thank you Lord for..." or any other way of offering thanks to our Lord.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Holy and Hilarious

One of my favorite people has a favorite saying. His name is Roger Bear and his saying is “holy and hilarious.” Roger is a campus minister at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. He encourages people to be holy and hilarious; to live holy lives and to enjoy clean humor. Roger encourages us to examine what people tell us, for Biblical truth, so I’m examining his saying.

Holy means to be saintly, godly, pious, devout, and spiritually pure. A holy being (like God) is entitled to our worship and can inspire fear and awe.

Claim Number  1: God is Holy
·         “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11
·         Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8
·         Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Exodus 15:11
·         And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy , holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:3-5

Claim Number 2: God wants us to be Holy
·         for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16
·         Btw, Peter is referencing Leviticus 11:44-45 and Leviticus 19:2

So God is a holy God and He wants us to be holy. The first half of Roger’s saying is solidly steeped in Biblical Truth.

Hilarious doesn’t turn up in the NIV search, but its synonyms do appear. Some key synonyms are happy (20), jolly, joyful (28), joyous, joy (242), laughable, mirthful, cheerful (5), merry (5), laughter (10) and so on. The numbers in parentheses are how many times they show up in the NIV.

Joy is delight, great happiness caused by good, pleasure, glad feelings, among other things.

Claim Number 3: God values joy/laughter/etc. (hilarious)
·         Psalm 2:4 (God laughs at people who are against God and His people)
·         Psalm 18:19 (God delights in us)

Claim Number 4: God wants us to have joy/laughter/etc. (hilarious)
·         Proverbs 17:22 Cheerful is like medicine
·         Psalm 126:2 (God fills us with joy and laughter)
·         Luke 6:21 (satisfaction and laughter)
·         Acts 13:52 (The disciples were filled with the Spirit and with joy)
·         Matthew 5:12 (Rejoice-if you´re persecuted-your reward will be large in heaven)
·         Luke 10:20 (Rejoice-your name is written in heaven)
·         Philippians 3:1, 4:4 (Rejoice in the Lord)
·         1 Thessalonians 5:16 (Rejoice)
·         Nehemiah 8:10 (The joy of the Lord is our strength)

Claim Number 5: God’s creation has joy
·         Psalm 96:12 (Trees of the field-sing. Fields-be jubilant)
·         Psalm 98:8 (Creation will clap and sing)
·         Psalm 65:8, 13 (God evokes songs of joy and shouts of joy)

There you have it. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He calls us to be holy. Therefore, a challenge to be holy, to be hilarious, is a good challenge indeed. Thank you, for issuing the challenge, Roger.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Measurements of Wealth: Orange Piths and Toilet Paper

An orange is made up of many parts. There's the rind (the orange outer part), the inner part of the rind (it's white and is called the pericap/albedo), the pith (the white thread-like parts), and the inner juicy part (that you eat). Parts of an Orange. Now I can sometimes be a picky eater and as such, I take the extra time to peel away the pericap/albedo and pith that's attached to my orange segments. Sometimes I even peel away the skin of the orange and just eat the juice filled pieces. 

Now that we're on the same page about what exactly the pith is, what does pith, and toilet paper for that matter, have to do with measuring wealth?

The world measures wealth by whether you are above or below the official poverty line. It measure whether you are lower, middle, or upper class. It measures how many meals you eat a day (plus snacks) and how far you have to walk to get water. It measures whether your children will ever have to work. The world measures wealth by the material possessions you own.

In my mind, those who have enough (enough food, enough clothing, enough water, enough shelter, etc.) or more than enough are wealthy. Those who don't have enough are poor.

I have never starved. A few times in my life, I have been abnormally hungry, but I have never been starving. If I'm mildly hungry, I take the time to get rid of the pith and the skin of the orange segments. When I am hungrier, I peel off the rind and start eating, despite my distaste for the pith. When my supper is delayed by more than two hours, I discover that I don't abhor certain foods, I just don't prefer them.

I measure wealth by how picky you can be with your food.

Growing up, I lived in a solidly middle class home. We always had a roll of toilet paper on the dispenser, plus additional rolls in the cupboard under the sink, plus more in the linen closet. If the dispenser ran out of toilet paper, we could reach the ones under the sink. If there were no rolls under the sink, we could call out and get a new roll provided by a cooperating family member within a minute. What was the result of this abundance of toilet paper? I don't feel a need to check for toilet paper until I'm ready to use it.

A while back, I was on a mission trip, in another country. All was well until we were at a local plaza/park. I needed to use the restroom. I made my way (alone) to the public women's restroom. I was ready for toilet paper. That's when I looked and realized two things: 1) there was no toilet paper in my stall. 2) my foreign language 101 class never taught my the word for toilet paper in the native language of the country. I tried to say I needed bathroom paper, but got no response. I had to wait for an English-speaking group member to come in and assist me. Later in the week, another public restroom had the toilet paper in the general restroom, on the wall, but not in each stall. I almost was stuck without toilet paper again, but thankfully I checked before it was too late. That habit lasted until I was home again, where another roll of toilet paper is always within arms-reach, provided I remember to add it to my shopping list.

I measure wealth by how readily I assume that I will always have access to basic sanitary items, such as toilet paper.

How do you measure wealth?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Respect-What It Means To Me

Husbands are called to love their wives. Wives are called to submit to and respect their husbands. That is the ideal relational interaction on each side, set forth by God. (Ephesians 5:21-33) Each side is to give 100%, to love/respect/submit unconditionally.

There is a large gap between the ideal to be striven towards and reality. What happened?

The world says, "I will love you IF...."
God says, "Love each other. Period." (John 13:34)

The world says, "Prove your love by your purchases."
God says, "Show your love through words and actions (service)." (Galatians 5:13)

The world says, "I will give you only as much love as you give me."
God says, "Love each other, like I have loved you." (John 13:34-35)

The world says, "Only be nice to those who are nice to you."
God says, "Love your enemies." (Matthew 5:43-48)

The world asks, "What can you do for me?"
God wants us to love others like we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40)

The world thinks we need to tear people down to make ourselves look better.
God wants us to encourage and uplift each other. (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24)

The world believes that the way to get your way is to whine, manipulate, and belittle.
God wants us to put others first. (Romans 12:10)

The world portrays men as lazy, clueless, no-good, nuisances and then wonders why men live down to those expectations.
God calls us to a high standard (but especially men) and expects us to live up to it. (see movie Courageous and its Bible Study)

So what does respect mean to me? How do I portray it in my life? 

I try not to publicly criticize my husband, either in front of him or when he is elsewhere.

When I do have a problem with something my hubby said or did, I try to tell it to him privately and without scorn.

I try to not bring up past problems in current discussions, especially if we have come to terms with them.

My husband is our primary wage earner (seriously, my paycheck can't even pay the rent), so I try to be frugal with our money, budget it the best I can, keep my hubby in the loop about my breakfast, and not make big purchases without his input.

My man is all too aware of his faults; he does not need another person pointing those out to him, but he does need a cheerleader, encourager, and positive-trait-pointer-outer. It is my blessing that I get to be this person!

Respect means that I don't diss my man or bad-mouth his decisions. Respect means that sometimes I will not do something that bothers him, just because it bothers him.

God didn't make His commands to love, submit, and respect conditional. His Word doesn't say "love each other IF...." "Submit to your spouse IF..." "Respect your spouse IF..." It says "Love/Submit/Respect your spouse." Period.

It is counter-cultural to hold your husband in high esteem and to treat him like the head of the household (he is, by the way). My husband has taught me that in order for men to be the head of the household, they have to see the need to be the head. If wives are doing it all and pushing the husbands away, they'll go do something fun or tackle a need that they can fulfill.

You can't change someone else. You can only change your side of the interactions with them; if they change, it's up to them. So instead of looking at the "ways your spouse fails you" or "how nice other people's spouses are," look at how you are doing as a spouse. What do you need to improve in?

Wives, respect your husbands in words and deeds. Husbands, love your wives in words and deeds. Christians, submit to one another.

What are ways that wives can respect their husbands? What are ways husbands want to be respected?

Monday, June 4, 2012


Be Still and Rest.

I used to dislike the verses instructing us to be still and to rest, but I tend to work myself beyond exhaustion and resting began to have more appeal. My days can get very, very busy. Work, school, and housework fill my waking hours. Movies, music, and radios drive away the silence. So I end my full day without giving God a chance to speak, because I'm not still and I'm not resting in Him. Being still is not a natural state to me; it takes a conscious effort. I have to intentionally pause the noise and push away distractions to interact with God.

Be still before the Lord; He will fight for us. (Exodus 14:14)
Be still before the Lord; He will make His move. (Psalm 37:7)
Be still before the Lord; know He is God. (Psalm 46:10)

Rest is:
Relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.
A period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquility.
To relieve weariness by cessation of exertion or labor.
Agriculture. to lie fallow or unworked: to let land rest.

The Sabbath, the weekly day of rest, is one of the ten commandments. Exodus 16:23, 34:21, and 35:2 reiterate that we are to rest on the Sabbath. No matter how many papers and projects I have coming up as a student, I only have 6 days to endure before resting again. Working every single day left me exhausted and staring hopelessly at the work that I still needed to get to. Did taking a Sabbath rest relieve me of my workload? Nope, but keeping a Sabbath encouraged me to work ahead. I would mentally reassure myself that my papers and projects would be done before the due date, but they did not have to be done so far in advance.

Psalm 62 says that "my soul finds rest in God" and Aaron Keyes has one of my favorite renditions of this Psalm in song. In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus urges the weary and burdened to come to Him, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you and learn from Him, for He is gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Being still and resting is sometimes counter-cultural and different. People are unnerved by silence. Looking inward sometimes is an exercise that is too painful to continue.

Rest. For God rested. (Genesis 2:2-3)
Rest. For God gives you rest. (Exodus 33:14)
Rest. For Jesus urged His disciples to rest. (Mark6:31)

Be still. Listen. Revel in His presence.
Rest. Recuperate. Refocus your goals to match His goals.
The Lord invites you to pause and get your needs met in Him.
How will you respond?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Altering My Concept of Altar

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid? / Your heart does the Spirit control? / You can only be blest, / And have peace and sweet rest, / As you yield Him your body and soul.
Is Your All on the Altar?

    I tend to have an issue with the song above, because when I hear altar of sacrifice, I think of sacrificing lambs, birds, and cows on an altar dedicated to the Lord. However, if I actually sacrificed an animal on my church´s altar, I´m pretty sure that people would be upset. Something about blood in the sanctuary. In my mind, Christians don´t need animal sacrifices because Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, so therefore, altars aren´t needed in churches. More specifically, that type of altar isn´t needed in churches.

    The Nazarene church not only has an altar, but wants it to be used, specifically in prayer, as a dedicated area to kneel before God and humble yourself before Him. And I just keep thinking that I can pray anywhere in the world and in any position (since God will still hear me) OR thinking of sacrificing a little dove. So for my sanity in church services, I decided to research altars and hopefully alter my view that they´re pointless since you don´t sacrifice animals on them and nothing is stopping you from praying in other places.

    What is an altar?

     One type of Old Testament altar is the altar of sacrifice. In the Bible, an altar was a mound of earth or uncut stones that held sacrifices to God upon it. Exodus 20:24-25. Later, it was a temple table dedicated to sacrifice. God was not pleased when His people began to offer defective animals to Him. (Malachi 1:6-14). But Jesus paid the price for our sins and His blood is the permanent atonement. So this type of altar isn´t needed in the modern church.

     Another type of Old Testament altar is an altar that is a sign between God and people. (Joshua 22:26). Altars were built to remember an encounter with God, to express thanks, and to worship. They can represent that we return to our commitments we made to God, victories, and so much more. But these were altars that were built, not just something that we mosey on over to and pray at. Altars were supposed to cost the builder something (money to buy it, time and effort to build it). 1 Chronicles 21:22-26.

     Another type of Old Testament altar is the altar of incense. Here, incense was burned for the Lord, symbolizing our prayers (Exodus 30:1-10). Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 describe how our prayers can be an incense to God. This altar is described in Isaiah 6:6 and Revelation 8:3-4 as being in heaven.

    In the modern world, the word ¨altar¨ can refer to the table that holds the articles of communion. Some churches have begun to call this the ¨communion table.¨ (see Church Architecture Definitions). Personally, I prefer the term ¨communion table;¨ it is more accurate in my mind. We don´t sacrifice animals on this table, nor do we burn incense.

    But then there´s the concept of a ¨kneeling altar.¨ This altar isn´t mentioned in the Bible; it´s of American origin. This is the main altar that I have an issue with. If such a large emphasis is placed on the kneeling altar, do we become dependent upon it? Will we think that we can only pray to God there? I mean, people don´t *have* to pray at an altar to get saved, so why emphasize it so much? If I went to the altar to pray, when it didn´t hold special meaning to me, would I have gone to the altar to look holy or to be more holy? Here is a link for a sermon on altars (it´s a pdf). Sermon: Why Build Altars?

    I started my research expecting to prove that the altar didn´t have a place in the modern church. I learned that I was partially right, but partially wrong. There is no need for an altar of sacrifice since Jesus. We don´t build our own altars ourselves, but the altar of incense? If prayers are incense, is an altar of prayer an altar of incense (and therefore a Biblical altar)? Maybe there still is a reason to mark gratitude, commitments, and prayers by coming to an altar.