Today's blog is written by Susan Barnes of the blog Abooklook. I thought that this post was especially good. Susan also has a Bible study site where you can go through a book of the Bible with her, reading a chapter a day. Here is her blog.
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:25
We have taken communion so many times it is easy to take our forgiveness for granted. We may even start to feel entitled to God’s blessings. We get lulled into thinking that because we believe in God in a godless world; because we adhere to moral absolutes in an immoral world; because we treat others well in a loveless world, we are somehow entitled to God’s blessings and protection.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, the minor prophets, all dispel the myth that God promises a reasonable limit on catastrophes for his people. Back then the Jews thought they were safe in Jerusalem. After all God had promised David that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne and the Messiah would come from his line. They thought God had guaranteed them protection. However they found themselves living in exile, with no king, Jerusalem in ruins, and the temple destroyed. Some days we may feel the same. Where is the blessing and protection of God?
We underestimate our sin and God’s determination to rid us of all that is unholy in our lives. It seems God will use crises and tragedies to achieve our sanctification. Hannah Hurnard describes God’s love like this, in Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible – terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.
Communion eliminates any sense of entitlement to God’s blessings. Communion reminds us it was our sins that put God’s Son on a cross. We are not entitled to anything; however He is entitled to our very lives.
You might think that a baby's cry is like a universal language, that all babies cry alike. But there is evidence that newborns cry in the native language of their parents! Last fall NPR reported on a study revealing that the sound of a baby's cry mimics the lilt of the language heard while in the womb. Here is the audio segment and corresponding article.
Today is the birthday of my sister, Peach. She turned two when Tim and Ted were only two days old; the three of them grew up more like triplets. They took care of her, and she took care of them.
Music has been the hallmark of Peach's life. Shortly after college she spent a year touring with a group called Free Spirit, with whom she traveled to most of the United States and parts of Europe. Whether as a soloist or member of a worship team or choir, she has loved to sing as much as people have enjoyed hearing her.
Peach is a master storyteller and she's got a great sense of humor. When she talks about Sally sitting on the poof-bang machine during one of their Free Spirit concerts, you can see the smoke rising and the hole in Sally's dress. You feel like you're the one falling off the steps into the sanctuary when she describes taking too long a break during a concert and getting back after the lights have gone down. And she always gets the punch line right. How I envy that!
Most of her working life has been in ministry to children and senior adults, people who have been blessed by her nurturing and loving spirit over the years.
She loves cats and rabbits and roses and musicals and her nieces and nephews. Her home, an apartment that she, Dad, Mom and Tim remodeled, is like one you might see in a magazine. It is lovely, extremely livable, warm and inviting -- just like Peach herself.
My younger brothers, Tim and Ted, turn 108 today. That's 54 plus 54.
They always wanted to be as old as Dad, so each year they would double their age and see if it equalled Dad's age. Each year they were disappointed, until they reached their 29th birthday, the same age Dad was when they were born.
When they were teenagers, Tim and Ted wanted an old milk truck. They intended to put a steering wheel in either end of the truck so that they could both drive. When they wanted to go north, Tim could drive; when they wanted to go south, it would be Ted's turn.
They never got that milk truck, but they did ride a red tandem bicycle. Despite their best efforts, they never could figure out how to fix it so they could go opposite directions. Years ago, they both turned north and ended up in Alaska, one in Anchorage and one in Juneau. The scenery of their lives is different one from another, but they're still headed in the same direction.
I got a front row seat at a real-life cat-and-mouse game yesterday, and it was nothing like Tom and Jerry. I stood bolted to the floor, mouth agape, as this city girl got her first demonstration of how a cat catches his dinner.
Standing at the kitchen window, I watched a grey striped neighbor cat come around the corner of our house with a mouse in its mouth. The cat dropped the mouse on the ground and sat down, looking around bored, while the mouse played dead. Occasionally mousie tried to dash away, but the cat would always get right back on him.
I watched as, again and again, the cat cornered the mouse and batted at him. He'd sit for as much as a full minute, glancing around the yard, his tail flopping back and forth, seeming to ignore the mouse, while the mouse stayed frozen on the ground. Slowly the cat would crawl toward the mouse and then pounce, sending the mouse running again.
It was agony. The cat toyed with the mouse, like a bully on the playground, just waiting until he had his poor victim worn to exhaustion. The mouse ran to the left of a tree and the coy cat sauntered to the right side, looking around. Good, he lost him, I thought, then, suddenly, the cat reached around the tree and batted the mouse again. Back in his mouth, onto the lawn, then more torment. For fifteen minutes I watched, stomach churning, as the mouse was badgered. I was so absorbed in the scene unfolding before me that I forgot to take the cookies out of the oven when the timer went off.
From the upstairs window beyond our yard, a Siamese preened in the window, unaware of the unfolding drama. A big black fluff ball of a cat sat on the fence, watching. As the cat began his victory feast, the fluff ball slowly made his way over and stood at a distance, still watching. Evidently the rule of the Little Red Hen exists among cats -- the feast is only for those who help prepare it.
The experience was hard on my psyche. Questions bombarded me: Am I more like the cat or the mouse, the bully or the bullied? How must it feel to be the mouse, worn down by psychological torture? Ah, come on, cats eat mice. What's the big deal?
1. to compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation; extemporize; to improvise an acceptance speech. 2. to compose, play, recite, or sing (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment. 3. to make, provide, or arrange from whatever materials are readily available; We improvised a dinner from yesterday's leftovers.*
I'm not sure how he got there, but lately Roy Williams from the original Mickey Mouse Club has been in my mind. I remember especially how he would have someone draw lines or squiggles on his drawing board, and he would transform them into a picture. Whip, whip, whip with his marker and he'd turn it into Donald Duck with alligator teeth or some other delightful design. He was a master improvisor.
Ken Medema is another. He is a singer/songwriter/storyteller whose music I have enjoyed for years. Sometimes he'll ask his audience to call out words that he can incorporate into his music. It could be bee hive, menu, and bunk bed and he'll begin to weave a remarkable musical tale of faith and life. Improvisation -- it's a thing of beauty!
Another amazing improvisationalist (I just improvised there) is Joanne Stremmler, the former organist at our church in Seattle. From her bench at the organ, she could make the sanctuary swell with her powerful playing and her interpretation of the hymns. Like Ken Medema, she elicited audience participation. She'd ask for three or four hymns that people would like to hear played, then she'd seamlessly create a glorious arrangement, with one song flowing into another, intertwining them all together, on the spur of the moment. Such a gift she has.
We do it all the time, though, don't we? We don't have buttermilk, so we add a little lemon juice to our regular milk; we find a piece of driftwood on the beach and turn it into a sculpture; a child makes a tent in the dining room with the table and chairs and a few blankets. It's a natural thing to do. It's a money-saving thing to do. It's a fun thing to do.
If you feel like singing, even when nobody else is, sing. If you find something, turn it into something else. If you feel like making up a story, go ahead. If you don't have what you need, find something else for the job. Let loose -- improvise!
Most everyone I know carries a special burden for a child, whether their own, a grandchild, or someone else they love. Some of the children struggle with physical or developmental issues; some of them are in difficult living situations or have serious obstacles they have to overcome. Many are children who don't follow the Lord, even though their parents do. And the children aren't all kids -- many are grown and have kids of their own.
It is easy to wring our hands over the concerns we have for our loved ones. God invites us to lift them to Him. He knows their needs and He knows their hearts. He is the Healer and the Provider.
Tom and I have seen God work in the lives of our own boys through prayer. With that in mind, we have begun a special prayer meeting at our church to pray for children. We've met only once before, but will meet this Saturday morning to, once again, bring our children to the Lord in prayer. If you're interested in more details, let me know.
My devotional reading this morning was taken from I Samuel 17:32-51, the story of David and Goliath. As I meditated on the passage I noticed down the side of the page I'd written the outline of a sermon preached some time ago by Pastor David Abbott:
David's Daring -- When the Philistine giant, Goliath, was terrorizing the Israelite army, David came to King Saul and offered to fight him. His qualifications to stand before this giant? He had killed both a bear and a lion with his bare hands. He knew that the God who had delivered him from those beasts would deliver him from the Philistine who "defied the armies of the living God."
David's Equipping -- Saul dressed David in his armor but he was so uncomfortable in it that he couldn't even walk. So he took it off and picked five smooth stones out of the stream, grabbed his sling shot, and went off to meet Goliath.
David's Winning -- The giant saw David and threatened to give his flesh "to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field." David replied, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied... All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands." And with that, he let loose a stone to Goliath's forehead and the giant fell to the ground, dead.
Across the top of the page is written Pastor Abbott's Lesson from David: To see every situation from the standpoint of God's ability to cope with it, according to His promises.
As a family we are facing some giants just now. I suspect you are, too. Can you see them from the standpoint of God's ability to cope with them, according to His promises? Of the hundreds of promises God has given us in the Bible, here are three. Let them be to you reminders of the Lord's ability to cope with whatever situation you are facing today:
Joshua 1:9 -- Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Proverbs 3:5,6 -- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Matthew 28:20b -- And surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age.
It came up at the dinner table last night with Tom's sisters. Just where can you get the old fashioned sodas that we remember from our childhood?
Look no further. Just check out the Orca Beverage Company in Mukilteo, Washington. You can get Bubble Up, Dad's Root Beer, orange, peach or strawberry Nesbitt's, Sioux City Sodas and Moxie. The history of Moxie, which was originally designed as a tonic, is especially interesting. The drink was so popular in the early 1900s that the word "moxie" was given a definition and listed in Webster's Dictionary. A person with "moxie" has energy, pep, courage, determination. And you don't need Moxie to have moxie!
Speaking of Moxie, have you ever heard of Moxee, Washington? With a population of 855, you may not have. It's about six or seven miles from Yakima, and you could get a house or condo there for $140,482 in 2008, when the median home price for the state of Washington was $308,100. This coming Saturday the town of Moxee will host the state's Constitution Party Convention. I'd say they've got moxie!
What was I thinking? On my April 23 post I wrote that I was hoping to read the New Testament through in 21 days. Today marks the 21st day and I am barely into Acts. I have found that it is not too easy to set aside the 60-90 minutes a day to do the reading, even though I am listening to the download of the New Testament that I put on my iPod and following along in the Bible. It is certainly a worthy endeavor, but I will not be finished today!
There are many approaches to reading the Bible. Pastor Sam at our church suggested that you read a passage of scripture, a Psalm, for example, or a chapter from the gospels, and record 50 observations about it. A couple of days ago I heard of a radio preacher who said that digging the meaning out of a passage, whether a chapter or a book, is more significant than to skim the Bible from cover to cover.
Reading the Bible in 90 days is not intended as a replacement for careful Bible study or meditation on the scripture. But it can give a unique perspective that you are liable to miss when you are doing a more in-depth study. It is like perusing a challenging textbook, and then returning to it for a very thorough reading. It hits the highlights and gives you the "big picture." My "big picture" won't be as big as it might have been if I'd been more disciplined, but I'll keep going, at my own pace, and one day be able to announce that I have completed the New Testament.
If you, too, began to read through the whole Bible or just the New Testament, keep at it. God's Word is alive and it reveals truth to us, but we only hear it if we are paying attention. Let's persevere. We'll be blessed for it.
Today is the birthday of my friend Karen. Sometimes when we are together, people ask if we are sisters, which I consider a grand compliment.
After we returned to the Northwest in 1995, I longed for a close friendship. One Sunday morning, after a three-year wait, Karen and her family visited our church. When I saw her, I knew instantly that the Lord had answered my prayer.
Karen and I have a lot in common: she's a writer, we both love photography, she's worked at a Christian camp, she was a missionary. She is also a nurse and a gardener, two distinctions I do not share with her. We like to go out to tea or to explore used book stores and knock around interesting Seattle neighborhoods. She uses words economically -- she has a quick mind for taking a rambling phrase and exchanging it for the perfect succinct, colorful word. And she's a wonderful listener.
I am impressed with Karen's ability to tackle projects. Whether she's teaching a Spanish class for the homeschool co-op or participating in a fundraiser for church, chaperoning a youth group missions trip or coordinating the kitchen at a women's event, Karen is diligent and gracious. She takes the scripture to heart and allows it to challenge -- and change -- her. And when she prays, she prays God's Word. She has a precious gift of getting to the heart of the matter, and she freely offers hugs and words of encouragement. On more than one occasion she has prompted me to record my thoughts in a blog. Thanks, Karen.
A few months ago, Woman's Day Magazine ran an essay contest with the theme, "How the public library can save you money." Karen's submission was selected and her article, along with three others, was printed in the March 2010 issue. You can see her article and a photo of her with her handsome son Jonathan here.
Today is Karen's birthday, but I am the lucky one. I was given the gift of Karen!
Guest blog by my brother Tim. He is in the TBA Theater production of The Sound of Music, which is now playing in Anchorage, Alaska. He is the only human member of the Trio of the saengerbund of Herwegen. (He was the only one to be cast as a trio member, expecting to fill the other two parts of the trio at a later date. They must have been impressed by his handmade puppets -- stand-in trio members he created to use during the rehearsals -- and decided that they didn't need to fill the parts with humans.)
My name is Luigi and I am the founding member of the Trio of the saengerbund of Herwegen, and this is my story. My father was a Sicilian stone mason and my mother was a young maiden in our home town of Valduz Switzerland.Valduz is the capitol of the Principality of Liechtenstein.My father, also Luigi, had come to Switzerland to do some repair work on mad Ludwig’s castle, Neuschwanstein.As luck would have it the castle is in Germany. Father stayed in Valduz since that is where he met and married my mother, Gretel.It was just as well as he had no real talent as a stone mason, but could whittle like a machine.He soon worked himself up to cuckoo clocks.Father wanted me to go into the cuckoo clock business with him, but I never got beyond whittling the pine cones on the bottom of the winding chains. We fought about it all the time which took days on account of my stutter. Father fought because he was Sicilian.Mother never took my side because she was Swiss. And that’s when I got a goat.Lloyd.Some guy showed up at the house one day and brought a goat.He had heard the yelling from up on the mountain and thought a goat would calm us down.Personally I think he was just lonely and wanted company.Besides, Lloyd suffered from occasional vertigo.Lloyd went everywhere with me, but when anything startled him he fell over.Between my stutter and his running into everything, we just didn’t fit in so sometimes we would go up the mountain for a yodel.Yodeling was the only time I didn’t stutter.I was the mystery yodeler in our town, but back then every town had one. On one fateful day I found a perfect little precipice and yodeled as loud as I could.I was almost to the big finish when Lloyd’s vertigo kicked in.I never saw him coming.He rammed me from behind knocking me clean off the mountain mid yodel.That was the day that changed everything.
Over the next three months I learned to yodel without moving my lips as my jaw was wired shut.In those months I had a dream that grew and grew until I knew where my future lay.Puppets.What I didn’t know at the time was that the fall mid yodel fixed my stuttering and my hump, but that’s a different story. Once I healed, I set to whittling the finest puppet I could.It took two years to finally have a puppet I could be proud of.I named him Hans.Hans and I took to the road singing and yodeling.The problem was there were so many yodeling puppets on the circuit that we weren’t making any headway.So I made a second puppet and named him Feet.That way everyone would say well there’s Luigi with Hans and Feet.And Feet did the trick. We became regional favorites and would travel from town to town.Lloyd hated traveling.He couldn’t go back to the mountain because of his vertigo so papa sent him to live with his family in Polermo.It took twelve long years but finally Hans and Feet and I took first place at the saengerbund of Herwegen. It has been a long hard road and we owe all our successes to a goat named Lloyd who has vertigo and lives in Polermo.
Photo: Hans in his rehearsal costume (the original hand-made puppet)
Pastor Pat is preaching a series on Exodus. Here are some of his points from yesterday's message entitled "Desert Discipleship Diet."
It was in the wilderness that the people began to realize that they were not actually Egyptian. They had lived 400 years in Egypt; God had to get them out of Egypt before He could get Egypt out of them. The wilderness was a necessary part of that process.
When our stomachs rumble, our mouths grumble. (No comment necessary!)
The Desert Discipleship Diet Water -- Along the way the Lord sweetened the bitter water of Marah (Exodus 15:22-27) and He brought water from the rock when there was no water (chapter 17). God provides for His people.
Oasis -- When you're in the wilderness experience God will occasionally give you a glimpse of His glory to keep you going, but this is not an everyday occurrence.
Bread -- As God provided daily manna for the people (Exodus 16), He promises to give us our daily portion. He doesn't want us to horde it, but to trust Him to provide for our needs, one day at a time, for He is always there.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread..." He was reminding us to trust God to meet our needs, each new day, as He did in the desert. In this God is saying to us, "I am sufficient for you today. Do not worry or grumble; I will meet your needs. Keep coming back to me, for I am always with you."
Mother Love caught me by surprise. It's not that I've had any problem loving my children. No, that has never, never been an issue for me. I love those boys from a deeper spot in my heart than I knew existed twenty years ago, when the seed of Mother Love was planted there. My boys, once so tiny and vulnerable, so in need of my love and care, are moving into manhood, and I love them more now than when they first entered our lives.
It's not the experience of Mother Love that was unexpected. It's the intensity and the longevity of it.
I've heard my friends whose children are grown and on their own talk about their kids; I've seen the softness in their smiles, the wistful look in their eyes. I've listened as they talk about ways they support their kids and share their accomplishments with me, and as they cry over their kids' needs. I've heard them speak with tenderness, even when those grown children have disappointed. Mother Love seems to have no expiration date.
There have even been times when I, a very grown child, have looked up and seen my mom looking at me, gazing on me with a light in her eyes and a soft smile on her lips. It was Mother Love I saw on her face. I'm almost 60 years old, yet still today she loves me as deeply as I love my children. I am stunned.
Mother Love. It is among God's greatest gifts to our world.
I got a haircut yesterday, and that brought snippets of several past experiences to mind. Here are a few:
... My hair has some natural curl and when I was little I wore it chin length. The day before kindergarten pictures, Miss Shockley, our teacher, told us to be sure and have our moms curl our hair. At least that's what I insisted she said. My poor mom spent a very long time giving me fat ringlets so that I would have the right hairdo for my school picture.
... I got a fresh, rather short haircut the day before I went abroad, not knowing if I could find a good stylist in Japan. Alas, as I was walking with my friends from the trolley to my new home in Osaka I passed a beauty shop with a picture in the window of my dream hairdo. It took months for my hair to grow out long enough for the very fine hairdresser to cut it into the style in that picture!
... Every visit to the salon in Japan included a long, luxurious shampoo that nearly put me to sleep, and sometimes even a warm towel around my shoulders and a cup of hot tea.
... I once had a stylist (not in Japan) who wouldn't let her clients look in the mirror until she was completely finished. Like an unveiling at an art exhibit, she would whip me around in the chair so that I could finally see myself. I never knew what to expect. Once I stopped by for a haircut on my way home from an afternoon wedding. When she was finished, I looked glamorous, ready for a night on the town. But the days I went in wearing jeans, I came out looking like a tomboy!
...How many times after a haircut, have I comforted myself with these words, "Don't worry; it will grow!"
Journalist Michael Greenspan was given an assignment that challenged him beyond anything he expected. He went to Israel with a film crew to determine if the nation of Israel's amazing survival is a result of miracles. The stories he heard and research he did caused this believe-no-one, search-it-out-yourself guy to consider the role of God's intervention in the history of modern day Israel. The 2007 13-part documentary called Against All Odds is the result of his assignment.
Echoes of some of the Bible's most amazing stories are a part of the nation of Israel. In 1917 a company of British solders, led by Major Vivian Gilbert, defeated the Turkish army at Michmash, designing their battle plan after the way Jonathan (King Saul's son) and his armor bearer had routed the Philistines in that very place, three thousand years earlier. The Turks surrendered and the mayor of Jerusalem handed over the keys of the city to the British army, preparing the way for the rebirth of the nation of Israel. It was December 9, 1917, the exact day prophesied by Old Testament prophet Daniel.
Just one day after Israel was declared an independent nation in 1948 by the UN, armies from twelve neighboring nations attacked it. The world watched as, with only five cannons and one tank, Israel fought back and defeated their enemies.
Story after story emerges from modern day Israel's turbulent history. We see a strong gust of wind that blows across the desert, exposing hundreds of Syrian land mines so that the Israeli soldiers are able to cross to safety; the Jordanian army is closing in on Israeli soldiers who have used their last bullets but the army is turned back when they see, above the Israelis, "Father Abraham"; the eyes of the enemies are blinded hundreds of times to the teenager named Ezra who is carrying supplies for the army; for an hour a battalion of men walk through enemy fire yet not one is harmed; marauding Arabs attempting to destroy a Jewish village are turned back by angels with flaming swords.
There are many scriptures that assure us that God's plan was to restore the nation of Israel. In Ezekiel 36:24 He said, For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. This remarkable series, Against All Odds, gives us a glimpse into how He's doing it.
Feeling blue? Need a little pick-me-up? Then dig out your photo albums. It tops the list of activities for enhancing one's mood. According to a British study, music and chocolate left people's mood unchanged, sipping an alcoholic drink and watching TV increased mood slightly (1%), but viewing personal pictures boosted the mood by 11%. Sounds like a winner!