Monday, October 25, 2010

Reading

I love to read.  I will read just about anything.  I remember when I was little I would read the back of the cereal box at breakfast to have something to read.  I read fiction and non-fiction.  I read contemporary novels and classics.  I have a few favorite authors (Austen, Hawthorne, the Bronte Sisters) and probably only two that I don't like at all, Melville and Stienbeck.  (Sorry to all their fans!  Just my personal preference.)  Most of the time this desire to read anything is good because I never run out of things to read.  However, sometimes it is a bad thing.  Right now it is a bad thing.  I am really, really, really wanting to read about 6 books right now.  It is hard enough to read one book with my schedule, but 6!  That is just impossible.  So I will have to be patient.  This seems unfair.  I don't want to be patient.  I want to lock myself in a room and do nothing, but read until I read them all.  Somehow I don't think this will happen, but I would like to do that.  So in the meantime, I will try to rank the books I want to read.  That is hard, but I think I have done it.

1. 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 By Dr. Thomas W. Phelan
2. The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir By Katrina Kenison
3. The Strong Willed Child By Dr. James Dobson
4.  The Queen of the South By Arturo Perez-Reverte
5.  Raising Boys by Dr. James Dobson
6.  The Titan's Curse By Rick Riordan

There are also 3 more that are a little more distant, but on my radar.

1. The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekateringburg by Helen Rappaport
2.  The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? By Slovoj Zizek
3.  Engaging Biblical Authority by William P. Brown
4.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (rereading)

So I guess from the titles you've noticed that my reading preferences are a little varied.  :)  What about you?  Is there one specific type you read or do you just read anything?  Do you have a favorite author?

The cost of following. Luke 9:51, 57-62

Starting in 9:51 we notice that Jesus "resolutely" sets out for Jerusalem.  He knows what lies ahead of him (the cross) and sets out anyway.  He doesn't do it grudgingly either.  He resolutely sets out.  He has made up his mind and he is going to do what he has been called to do.  Thinking of that we can see a little bit of why Jesus reacts as he does in the next passage.

9:57-58 Isn't it amazing to think that the Savior of the world was a homeless man?  The man says he will follow and Jesus calls him on it.  Can you really do that?  Jesus may call us to follow him to crazy places, but the point is that we are called to follow him.  He goes there first and he is with us as we are going.  Are you prepared to really follow Jesus?  Where is he calling you to go?  Can you go with him?

9:59-60  This one seems a little unusual because Jesus calls this man and then reprimands him that he is not ready.  Some scholars think this man's father had just died and others think he was on his deathbed.  Either way, he had a familial duty to perform.  Jesus tells him there are more important things than familial duty.  That is to preach the gospel.  We can't let anything stand in our way of what we have been called to do.  What are you being called to do?  What is standing in your way?  What are you going to do about it?

9:61-62 The third man puts a stipulation on it.  I will follow when I have this other stuff finished.  There is an immediacy to the Gospel.  It is not something that can wait until everything esle is fixed up okay.  It is something that needs to be preached right now.  If you wait until, everything else is settled the way you want it, you will never be ready.  God is calling you to something right now.  What is it?  What stipulations are you putting on your obedience? 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grocery Stores

I didn't have time at the same moment I had an idea for last week's blog, so you got nothing.  Sorry.  I'll make up for it this week by regaling you with my deep thoughts!

Grocery stores have really made it all so much easier for us to be humanitarian and help save the world.  We were at Food Lion last week and right there at the check out they had bags of candy.  For an extra dollar, you could donate a bag of candy to (insert some helpful group here).  They also quite often have little slips of paper where you can donate $1, $5, or $10 to some worthy cause.  It doesn't get much easier than that to help out.  At the end of your shopping trip, does $1 make that much of a difference.  Probably not, so throw an extra dollar on the tab and help save the world.

Yes I know, this is short and you are thinking, "It took 2 weeks to come up with this?"

The answer is yes, it took 2 weeks to come up with this.  But just stop a minute and think about 10 years ago, did we see grocery stores stepping up to make a difference.  I didn't.  It is just so refreshing to see that big chains are taking the time to bring these issues and humanitarian groups to the American consciousness.  I think it is nice to see and I wanted to say so.  And now I have!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The tale of Samson

This week, we explore Judges 16 and look at the story Samson and Delilah and the death of Samson. Next to Jesus, Samson is probably my favorite character in the Bible. Samson's life shows us the great gifts God can bless us with, the realistic vices of the flesh that we all struggle with, the negative consequences that can occur and the subsequent blessings we can miss when we don't use wisely what God has entrusted us with, and finally - it's an amazing story of redemption...how we can still be useful to further God's kingdom despite our past transgressions.

16:1-15 - Not all of us are blessed with the spiritual gift of discernment, but we are blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us through difficult and even dangerous situations. We need to see things and even people for what and who they are. Samson was so taken by Delilah's beauty and his weakness for the ladies that he failed to see Delilah's manipulation and her true intentions. Maybe we all don't struggle with lust in the same manner as Samson, but Delilah can still come in many shapes, sizes, and colors for us. Maybe for us, Delilah is a bad habit - or even addiction - that we need to let go of. Maybe Delilah is something material that we covet that takes our eyes off of where they truly need to be. Maybe Delilah is even a person in our lives that is keeping us from taking the next step in our spiritual walk and growing closer to God.

Our human nature is going to take over at some point and allow us to become consumed with feeding our flesh rather than feasting upon things more pleasing to our souls. That's why we cannot do it on our own and need to use the power of the Holy Spirit, which is available to us at any time. We have to be willing to be honest with ourselves and recognize what Delilah may be in our lives and the distractions she can cause. We also have to be willing to trust God to pray about it and to respond humbly and obediently to how he calls us to deal with it.

What is Delilah in your life today? Please let us pray for you if you are struggling with anything at all in your walk!

16:16-21 - It wasn't until Samson grew tired of Delilah's nagging that he finally relented and spilled the beans about the secret to his weakness - his "kryptonite" if you will. :) We are going to encounter people from time to time who are difficult to deal with in a spiritual sense. Satan uses people to try to knock us off our games, whether it's someone who challenges our faith, someone who frustrates us, or someone trying to deceive us. In these instances, we need to stand firm in what we know is right. Don't let the enemy or anyone else dim your light!

We also need to keep in mind that our gifts aren't to our glory, but to God's glory. As such, handle with care! Samson didn't use his gift of his mighty strength wisely in this instance and it cost him his eyes and a lot of physical and mental torture.

16:23-31 - In spite of Samson falling short of the glory of God, God was still able to use him one more time in a mighty way to destroy the pagan temple. More importantly, Samson found repentance and restoration through a humble heart and a God whose love for him, and you and I, is immeasurable. Don't believe the lies of Satan. When you're forgiven, God is more concerned about your next move than your past mistakes. Turn your "mess" into a "message!"

There have been times we've all run away from home in the spiritual sense, and God is always right there waiting at the door, inviting us in out of the rain....dry clothes, a warm meal, and a seat by the fireplace waiting on us!

Be very careful with that, though. Don't attempt to manipulate God or take his mercy and grace for granted. That's not a free pass to go out and sin again, knowing he will forgive us for anything. God isn't our genie lamp or our magic 8-ball! This is where having a humble and repentant heart truly comes into play. It's also where faith and obedience is put to the test, as often the things (and even people sometimes) we're called to turn away from are very difficult to let go of...but we'll never go wrong.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waiting

This is one of those weeks when I don't think I have anything that I am just dying to tell you about, so I guess I'll mention some of what I have been learning lately.  In case you can't figure out what I've been learning, it is waiting/patience.

It seems to go without saying that having an 19 month old will teach you patience or drive you insane.  (Currently it's a little bit of both.)  However, this isn't the only place that I'm learning about patience and waiting.  This isn't something that I ask for, but just something God has been giving me.  Aren't I lucky?  :)  Seriously though, Drew and I have both felt that God is calling us to something more ministry focused.  Drew quite literally in the ministry somewhere at a not too distant point in the future.  Me- I feel that at some point I will probably be called away from the classroom and into something else.  When?  I have no clue.  What is this something else?  I have no clue.  However, I have learned over the past few weeks.  I need to be preparing for whatever that is.  So I need to be reading and praying to be sure that I am where I need to be with God and learning what I need to learn to be ready when the door opens.  What door?  I have no clue.  Some days this not knowing bothers me more than others.  Most days it doesn't.  I truly know that God has my future in his hands and it is good.  When will I get to this future doesn't matter as much as how I get to this future.  So in my waiting, I need to be learning and taking one day at a time.

Another waiting lesson that I learned, this week was a particularly rough one.  The new AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for testing results is going to really jump this year and everyone at my school is already stressing about this.  This stress makes things tense around there and in the tension, some good intentions get lost in frustrated questions and answers.  Being on the recieving (and probably some of the giving) end of this frustration this week really had me wondering, if I was where God wanted me to be.  Normally, when I start to wonder, I want answers right now.  I told myself in this situation I wasn't going to be that way.  I was going to wait on answers.  God really made sure I was waiting.  The rest of the week went swimmingly.  My students were wonderful.  I got so much accomplished and got some great ideas from collegues.  So I really felt God's hand in the end of my week.  He was going to make sure that things went well, so I had no choice, but to calm down, think rationally, and wait on his answer.

So while I currently wonder where I will be in 10 years, 5 years, next year, 5 months, and even in 10 days, mostly I'm not worried about it.  God is holding my future and it is good.  Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future."  That is something worth waiting on.