Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolved: Starting January 1

I am a master of the obvious.  So, today is the perfect time to consider New Year's Resolutions.  The tradition of the New Year's Resolutions began in 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.

Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future with his two faces. Janus symbolized for the ancients our present appetite for resolutions.

So, as a review:  we commit to a new commitment for the New Year because of a make believe 2 headed god?  Excellent.

While I am pro taking inventory (looking back and learning), pro commitment, pro growth (looking forward with wisdom) and support calendars everywhere, I wonder about the soundness of New Year's resolutions
 (success rate between 8%-12%).  I suspect FB will be stocked with them over the next few days.

Two faced god aside, I don't think there is anything contrary to faith in a New Year Resolution (NYR), except perhaps the temptation of self directed, centered living--even and especially for "good" things. 

Examples of a NYR
From Pittsburgh Daily, the standard bearer list
  • Spend more quality time with family and friends
  • Fitness
  • Weight Loss
  • Quit Smoking
  • Enjoy life more
  • Quit Drinking
  • Get out of Debt
  • Learn Something New
  • Help Others
  • Get Organized

From  one Mystic Raven of the very wide world wide web
  • Accept Mortality
  • Accept That We All Worship Different Gods
  • Garden
  • Spend Time Thinking
  • We Comfortable Clothes
  • Enjoy Formality (etiquette, minus shoes, I think)
  • Remove Shoes
  • Eat Something Strange
  • Spend a Day in Bed
The first list is a common combination of common sense and abstract intentions for growth (why would anyone want to learn just one new thing in the next 365 days and what does it mean to enjoy life more)?

Mystic's list, while it lacks any ambition or substance and fully embraces as much nonsense as the first list has common sense, it does have the benefit of breaking the 8%-12% success rate.  I suspect many of us could accomplish a day in bed if we focused.  The shoe thing and comfy clothes too. 

What would Christ's list for us be? 
  • Love God
  • Love Others

Monday, December 27, 2010

Anybody Game? Post Christmas Giveaway

Bible teacher Beth Moore is creating a 2011 challenge to memorize two verses a month throughout the year, logging onto her blog http://blog.lproof.org/ to record which verse/translation.  Moore has also put together some cute spiral notebooks to hold each bi-weekly verse.

I am jumping in.  Would love some company and I have four extra spirals (note card size) to give out (free) to any of you who wants to share in this project.  

I have never been grand at memorizing scripture--I mix and blend and partially grab hold of verses, and I would love to have the ability to draw directly and accurately from Scripture for pray, journaling, listening and reading. 

If you want one of the spirals, let me know.  Moore calls all women who jump on her blog Siestas, as years ago she accidentally typed Siestas instead of Sisters and, "thought a nap had a divine calling".  So, the name stuck.

So, let me know if you want one of these cute books for a healthy assignment in the upcoming year, and I would get a kick out of having some company.

See and Reply

Luke 2:28-32; 38
Simeon says:  Lord, now You are letting your servant depart in peace, According to Your work;  For my eyes have see Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel. 
Anna gives thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Immanuel:  God with Us.  The Christmas story is so rich with characters and a plot that can capture my imagination year after year.  This year my mind drifted to the idea of Immanuel interrupting the ordinary events and lives of those in his presence.  Rich, poor, family, strangers...he dropped in and nothing seemed to change much, but everything had changed.   Mary and Joseph did the responsible and honorable things by the Law and circumcised Jesus on the 8th day--ordinary.  Until Simeon and Anna see the normal healthy baby boy, both recognize the child as the savior, the redeemer.  Then again live moves on.

The week after Christmas, the return of a more normal routine.  Will I recognize the interruption of Immanuel into the ordinary ebb and flow?  Will I respond?

Recognize and Respond.

Off to errands, returns, planning for 2011. 

Recognize and Respond.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You Can Tell A Lot. Really?

I am amused by Twitter.  I like the pithy-ness of it, and there is more substance that FB posts, although far less personal. 

Case in point, a minister (not a minister from my church) whose tweets I follow wrote, "you can tell a lot about a person by whether or not they return a grocery cart." 

My snarky response was, Really?

What can you tell about a person based on his or her willingness to politely return the cart to the return bin?

I think you can clearly tell that the person is polite about retuning the cart to the bin.  Period.

It points to a problem of how we value and evaluate each other and frankly ourselves.   While I appreciate the gesture of following the cart return bin request and all requests, the acts proves nothing about the person who commits it or fails to commit it. 

Good people leave carts next to cars and bad people return them to bins.  At the risk of sounding critical, the minister should know better.  Sound theology would say we are all bad regardless of our cart courtesy, but it makes us feel better to be on the polite side of the "rule". 

Whats my point?  I am not sure.  Is this a comment about the limits of Twitter.  Perhaps.  Is it a practical application of the dangers of judging others and pride?  Perhaps. 

I think my point is that returning a grocery cart is a simple and helpful gesture.  It's nice to be helpful, but it's nothing more.  Failing to return the cart may make parking in that spot annoying, it may add a few seconds to a store employee's work--but all in all you can't tell anything about a person by the way he or she manges a cart.  Really.

Do I Love A What or A Who?

I am reading Phillip Yancey's, What Good is God?.  Like all of Yancey's work, it is excellent.  At one point, he is expressing ideas on grace as a reality and he quotes from a letter he received:  "I loved my Christian lifestyle, I didn't love God."

That comment has shadowed me for days.  Does it describe me?  I always thought of myself as D.L. Moody said, "yes, I am filled with the Holy Spirit, but I leak."

I do love the Christian lifestyle, in America--there is a lot to love.  Free from persecution, drawn to many wonderful and interesting people, often a source of encouragement and a place to serve that is frankly convenient.  

I also think God purposed us for his church, that we should as a simple matter, be actively serving the church.


Yet, that comment confronts me, am I loving a lifestyle not the person of Christ?  A lifestyle is a way of living that reflects the manners or values of a person or a group.  There is nothing wrong with a "Christian lifestyle" it reflects the person of Christ.  

The rub, the interesting point of the quote is the loving of lifestyle instead of loving the person the life is supposed to reflect.

In other words, do I enjoy being a Christian more than I love Christ?

Is it semantics or is it a healthy question?

To love being a Christian is to love self.  Frankly to love Christ is to deny self.  Instead of working toward being a better Christian, should I not focus on loving Christ more? 

OK, so how?  What does that look like.  What difference does that perspective make?    Yancey points to a clear acceptance of grace.  To relate to God through His gift of grace,   

Yancey writes that rules or Christian lifestyle, "present a temptation to rely on external behavior rather than cultivating the inner life.   Basing your faith on externals has the advantage of letting you know exactly what is expected.  On the other hand it also makes faith easy to cast off.  I can exchange on way of behaving for another, like a chameleon changing colors while nothing really changes on the inside." 

So, this Christmas I accept the perfect gift of grace.  I look to the person of Christ, as a baby, as a teacher, as a miracle worker--as a savior and I remember he not only chose to die for me, he opts to dwell in me.  The internal presence is there, do I love it?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Exam Week

It is exam week at our home.  If you are curious as to why we appear to be sucking on a lemon, please know it is the combination of pre-Christmas frenzy with multiple comprehensive finals.  Such academic festivity led me to ask as I wrap up (pardon pun) my latest study, what did I learn.  Then I ran across this quote:  "don't let your learning lead to knowledge but to action," from Paul Rahn--who may be a certifiable nut, but I like the idea.

My version is what did I learn and what difference does it make?

The primary focus of this study (Experiencing God by Henry Blackerby) is living every day asking, "what is God up to?" and "how can I adjust to join Him?".   God is at work all around, and am I will to jump in and cooperate with the invitation.

That is what I learned.  Now for the final exam--what difference does it make?  What action will it inspire?

  • Will I move from the Happy Land of Good Intentions to a land of intentional faithful living?
  • Will be a yes person instead of a no, or well...person?
  • Will I hold on to my stuff, my time, my money very loosely--willingly letting God to have easy access to what He gave me in the first place?
  • Will I do the hard thing, recognizing that God's great work was always, always, always more than the person initially imagined?
  • Will I stop criticizing and start just making things better, asking--what I can do, where can I contribute?
  • I will pray for people I don't much like and ask for forgiveness instead of focusing so much on who and how to forgive?
  • Will I trust God as a person and not try and trust "my faith".

The end of the study is the beginning of new lessons.  I look forward to a discussion Friday on Daily Life to hear how others plan to walk on a path that has been cleared just a bit.

I pray  that I walk that path minus the pucker that comes from a sour taste.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Just a Thought, More Later

You are God's Gift to Your Church.

A Sweet Sound

Then Sings My Soul: Special Edition by Robert J. Morgan is a beautiful and useful collection of 150 hymns--historically beloved hymns such as Amazing Grace, Fount of Every Blessing and Rock of Ages in addition to Easter Hymns, Christmas Hymns and Hymns of Thanksgiving. Even the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful are included. It would be a wonderful Christmas gift for a choir member or director, as the music is included on one page a devotional/historical context is featured on the facing page. This gives the story behind the music, the composer and the legacy of the music.



It captures the heart of the hymn, but in a way that moves the reader, not just the musician. My home church features traditional worship and this reference has deepened my understanding, appreciation of much of the music.

Mogan's compilation would edify the worship of adults could also educate students to the whole perspective surrounding this rich music. Traditional hymns have such theological depth, and with the added human interest behind the composition offers much to the reader.



It would be perfect for a choir to use as a rehearsal devotion, or a Sunday school teacher to add on a unique extra to a lesson. I highly recommend it.

To be expected or a shocking surprise?

Luke 2: 13-20 "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.' When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the lord has told us about.'  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heart it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told."


Suddenly--unexpectedly.  Advent is a season of expectation, the focus on hope of what is to come built up by what has already happened.  Yet on this first Christmas night, the events unfolded are unexpected. 

So, is this a season of expectation or a season of the unexpected? 

Both, I think.

What are healthy expectations?  What are fair expectations?  What are ridiculous expectations?

What is God expecting from me this season?

What of the unexpected--is is welcome or resisted and how do I respond?  I loved the shepherd's respond, they went to see and told everyone about it.  Am I prepared to go, look and see the miracles around me, and do I treasure them in my heart or tell everyone about them?  Do I glorify God in what I have seen and heard?

Those are some good questions for me to hang by the chimney with care.

Followers

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?