Saturday, February 17, 2018

Memories


Running reminds me I can do difficult things.

-Marie Krueger-Miller

Monday, January 01, 2018

Helpless

"It's hard for the saints to believe they are helpless if preachers continually tell them 'Here are four things you need to apply to your life', and expect them to do it." - Rev H Leon Ben-Ezra

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Book Review: Nailed It by Anne Kennedy

A Book Review:
NAILED IT – 365 Sarcastic Devotions for Angry or Worn-Out People
by Anne Kennedy

I first discovered Anne Kennedy via Twitter.  Someone retweeted a tweet of hers that I found interesting, so I started following her.  Following her led me to her blog, which I also found interesting and edifying.  Following her blog led me to her book, this devotional. 

Though I’d found her tweets and blog posts thought provoking, I wasn’t sure about actually investing money in her work, especially a devotional.  There’s a certain vulnerability I give myself over to when reading a devotional versus a commentary or study book.  I don’t read them intellectually or critically but…devotionally. And so I worry my theology could be led astray. But I couldn’t resist the title or the cover. It depicts a woman, Jael from the Book of Judges, holding a mallet and a bloody spike. My warped sense of humor won out!

Anne Carlson Kennedy is an Anglican minister, wife of an Anglican pastor, and home-schooling mother of six, so her understanding of scripture and worn-out people is astute. She self-describes herself as sarcastic, but I only found her mildly so (which could be revealing my own level of sarcasm).

This not a typical devotional book, as I have found typical devotional books.  It is not filled with saccharine messages or trite moral teachings. Though seminary educated, Kennedy’s devotions are not academic lessons, either. Her writing displays scriptural and spiritual insight while her personal examples leave room for the Spirit to stimulate readers’ own personal application.  No cookie cutter answers are offered. What Kennedy describes as sarcastic and angry I call “real”. Her tone and style are a cross between Ann Voskamp and Dorothy Parker.

An excerpt from Day 331 (November 27) – I Cor 5:6 “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”
                A little sin goes a long way. It wraps itself around everything. It moves through the whole batch of dough leaving no single part unaffected. There isn’t any way to get rid of it. The people of Israel were supposed to get rid of all the leaven out of their houses before the Passover feast. They had to wash everything and scrub everything and clean and clean, almost to the point of exhaustion. They could satisfy themselves that no leaven was in the house. But what about the air? There can be invisible airborne leaven. I know this because of once trying to make sourdough bread.
                So with sin. A little goes a long way, and you can’t ever completely get rid of it. So why, this being the case, and its power being so immense and destructive, would you go out and find it and bring it in? Because it makes life taste better? Because you think you will overpower it with the good that you dredge up from somewhere inside you? Or maybe through the Spirit. Maybe you will overcome sin through the Spirit.
                No. Don’t think so highly of yourself and your abilities. Flee from sin. Confess your sins. Call out to Jesus for help. You can’t do anything at all without him.  Only blood will wash away the stain of the leaven.


This is a devotional that will allow the Spirit to prick your conscience, encourage your heart, and let you know your LORD and God better. And that’s really what a good devotional is supposed to do.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Year of Jubilee

November 28, 2017 marks my sixth anniversary at my current job. My employer treats me well and I enjoy the work I do. I look forward to working there for many years to come, as long as they'll have me.

 I have a 47 mile, 50-minute commute each way, which I've found amazingly pleasant. By the time I get to work I'm wide awake and by the time I get home, any stresses are miles behind me. I use my commute time for prayer and I listen to music, audio books, and podcasts. I used to regularly listen to talk radio, too; until the 2016 Election Cycle, that is!

My route is primarily on interstate highways and the roads are generally clear, harsh winter weather notwithstanding. My daily journey is scenic, taking me over Chautauqua Lake,  and most days I drive towards the sunrise and sunset.

But...each year there has been an "incident" that gave me cause to be alert, intensified my prayers, and made me humble. On this work anniversary, I take this time to recall these "events".

Year One - The fuel gauge on my car was malfunctioning so I had to keep close watch on the odometer to judge when  I needed to fill my tank.  One morning I had time to either gas up or grab a doughnut.  I looked at the mileage reading and figured I had enough fuel to get to work but would need to refuel on the ride home.  I bought the doughnut (Mighty Fine Angel Cream, if you were wondering). Two blocks from work my car died.  This was one of those humiliating  humbling experiences I'd mentioned.

Year Two - As I mentioned, the roads are generally clear. My issues are very rarely with winter road conditions. Visibility is another story!  One February evening, I hadn't been paying attention to the weather and even worked over, so I got a late start home and not a minute of my ride was in daylight. Not that it would have helped, since it was blizzard conditions.  My normal 50-minute commute took 150 minutes. A portion of the interstate was closed and the detour took me to an unfamiliar country road. It was a downhill route and I felt I was driving in to a dark tube with no end.  Slippery roads and white outs had me moving at 5 mph for much of the drive which caused snow and ice to build up on my windshield wipers, rendering them useless.  At one point I became keenly aware of my isolation, no lights in front of me, no lights behind me.  I pulled over under an overpass and called my brother who was about 35 miles away. He kindly listened to me but gently told me "Barb, I can't come get you".  "I know! I just needed to hear another voice!" I cried.  I hung up, put the car in gear, and slowly pulled out to continue my journey home.  About 6 miles from home, I was able to get off the highway and get on familiar roads. However, I wound up stopped in traffic on a hill.  I had come to a complete stop (really) when I felt my car start to slide.  I desperately pumped the brakes but didn't stop until I bumped in to the WalMart semi in front of me, cracking my bumper cover.  A bright spot to all this was that my boss texted me to make sure I'd gotten home safely.  I told you, they treat me well there!

Year Three - Do you remember that WKRP in Cincinnati episode "With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."?  Well, turkeys CAN fly.  Not very high, but they can fly.  They can fly about the height of the windshield of a Ford Escape.  The turkey hit my driver side windshield, shattering it.  I want it on record that the turkey hit ME, I did not hit it. He misjudged his takeoff and flew in to me as I was driving my.  I was about 40 miles from home and (stupidly, I admit) tried to drive the rest of the way by leaning over to look out the passenger side windshield to navigate my way home.  That lasted about a mile before I realized the futility, pulled over and called some friends who lived not too far.  They came to my rescue, waited while the tow truck carted away my vehicle, fed me dinner, and loaned me a car to get home.  It's not just my employer who treats me well.

Year Four - I travel 47 miles to work each day.  My boss travels about 30 miles, much of it the same route I take.  On my way to work one day I noticed a State Police vehicle, lights flashing, had pulled over a vehicle that looked a lot like my boss's car.  I laughed and thought of ways I'd tease him when I got to work.  As I passed the vehicles I also noticed a couple of dead deer and felt sorry for the poor driver.  And the poor deer.  As I walked to my office I looked in to my boss's office and saw he was not there yet.  He could have been in a meeting, he could have had the day off. I figured I'd razz him later.  About 8:30 I heard him talking to someone outside my office.  "No, the air bag didn't deploy" I heard him say.  Air bag!!! I hurried to the hall and said "Was that you????" "Yeah, I saw you drive by."  Yes, folks I drove by my boss as he was stranded on the side of the road after hitting deer.  And it wasn't a couple of deer, but THREE deer he'd hit. I have job security just so he can hold this event over my head until the day I retire.

Year Five - Road crews still kept the highways clear, but there was still nothing to be done about that darned visibility.  On my way to work my wipers once again iced over and I couldn't see.  I needed to pull over to clear them but to do so on the interstate was too dangerous so I decided to pull off at the next exit to find a safe place.  Only I couldn't see the exit.  I traveled to the next exit, and missed that one, too.  The third exit was the charm. The blowing snow calmed down just long enough for me to see the exit and I was able to get off the highway.  The road was still busy, though so I pulled over as far as I could to a place where I could safely exit the car and clean off the wipers.  I pulled over too far, got caught in a couple of ruts that pulled me right in to a large, deep ditch.  How deep?  The snow came up to the hood of my SUV.  From my vehicle I called AAA and ninety minutes later they showed up to tow me out.  I texted work to tell them I would not be in.  In six years I've only missed two days due to snow, though I probably should have missed a few more.

Year Six - I hit a deer. I cried. I didn't cry for the turkey.  HE had it coming.  But the poor deer...

And so I'm entering Year Seven.  In Leviticus it describes the Year of Jubilee, seven cycles of seven Sabbaths.  I don't know where in the cycle we are officially but I'm hoping that this next year is the right seventh year and I get a year off.  My insurance company and the wildlife of Chautauqua County are hoping this, as well.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A Book Review: None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Following is a book review I wrote for my church.  I was blessed with so much insight about God and His greatness from this book, I cannot recommend it enough!  May you be blessed from it, as well.

A Book Review:
None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us
(and why that’s a good thing)
by Jen Wilkin

About 18 months ago, I asked Pastor for a book recommendation on God’s attributes. He suggested Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology When he saw the look on my face Pastor quickly reassured me I only need read a small portion, about 17 pages, and that I could find used copies (i. e. cheap) on Amazon! Grudem’s work did what it was supposed to; it described God’s attributes, providing substantial proof texts, and it whet my appetite for more. Wilkin’s short book (158 pgs) is a banquet, including dessert!

While Grudem’s descriptions of God’s characteristics were understandably academic, Wilkin’s are intimate and personal. With sound biblical teaching she describes God and then pointedly illustrates how we fail to stack up comparatively.  In our goal-oriented, esteem-conscious culture, this would make one feel incredibly downcast; but with socially relevant examples she reassures us “why that’s a good thing”.

At the end of each chapter are study questions and a section where readers are asked to write a prayer of confession where they have tried to usurp God’s place by trying to be omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, etc; trying to be God themselves. As I wrote these prayers I was made aware of sin I’d never even considered. Though humbled and convicted, when I saw my sin I was made more aware of the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love.

Wilkin’s writing style is likeable and down-to-earth. She presents sophisticated material in an understandable manner. Though the book is written by a woman from a woman’s point of view with a cover of pink roses on a teal-colored background, men would not feel uncomfortable reading it.  It is also appropriate for people at all stages of their Christian walk.  I’ve been reading the book with a friend of mine for whom all this information is new material.  We are both awe-struck and mind-boggled by the information presented.  In fact, if anyone wants to do a book study on this I’d be willing to go through it again, it is that good!


Barb

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Surf City

As I was getting ready for church this morning I started singing to my self the hymn, "O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus". I couldn't remember some of the lyrics so I did a quick Google search to make sure I was singing it right. I know God knows what I mean to say, but I still like to get it right for Him!

As I read the lyrics certain passages stood out to me; the Spirit was prompting me to do more than sing the words but to reflect.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus...rolling as a mighty ocean in it's fullness over me!

Often I've described depression, sadness and grief as waves that wash over me.  Sometimes they're small splashes at my ankles. Other times the waves are bigger, knocking me off my feet; but other times they're large waves crashing over me, threatening to drag me out to sea, Comparatively, however, the love of Jesus is more than a wave, it's an entire ocean.

Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love

Waves of sadness, grief, pain, they threaten to drown me. Their desire is to drag me to the bottom of the sea. The all encompassing love of Jesus has a different aim. It wants to take me in a different direction to a different destination.

...and it lifts me up to glory for it lifts me up to Thee

The deep love of Jesus doesn't sink me but lifts me up. Jesus wants me to ride the wave of His love. He wants to take me surfing!


Photo: Flickr


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election Reflections

A large group of Christians gathered on a Social Media chat to “discuss” the US Presidential election. There were conservatives, liberals, progressives in the chat. Moderates, too.  Complementarians, egalitarians. Believers of all shapes, colors, sizes, nationalities, denominations and doctrinal beliefs.

A lot of snarky comments were tossed back and forth. Vile, hateful memes traded.  Jesus entered the discussion and keyboards grew still. 

“Hey, I meant it when I said ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them’. There are definitely more than two of you here and you say you’re my followers.  Why are you so surprised that I’m joining in your chat?”

Some people left the room, but many stayed on.  A lot of “Thumbs Up” emojis appeared.  Smiley Faces, too.  And of course, some Praying Hands. But no one said anything. 

Then one brave participant, a lawyer jumped in to the discussion. 

“Lord, I just want to make sure of this.  What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

The lawyer’s feed went still for a moment then this appeared:

27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus smiled. “That was quick. BibleGateway is really handy. You’ve answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The lawyer was embarrassed it had been obvious he’d copied and pasted from Bible Gateway. Desiring to justify himself he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “You’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan, so I won’t repeat it.  I’ll be brief.  Everyone’s your neighbor.”

The audience sat silently in front of their keyboards as the implications of His words penetrated their hearts. Not even an emoji was sent.

One person finally typed “????” 

“Everyone.”

“Donald Trump!!??”

“Donald Trump”, Jesus posted.

“Hilary Clinton!!??” another asked, incredulously.

“Hilary Clinton.” Jesus paused for effect and then typed “Bill Clinton, too.”

“Rosie O’Donnell?  Alec Baldwin?”

“Yes to both.  All the Baldwin brothers, in fact.  And I need to remind you that Stephen Baldwin is not just your neighbor but your brother. He’s a believer, too.” Jesus continued, “I’ve said this before, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? Be merciful as your Father is merciful. It’s all in the Bible.”

At this point, many people left the chat. Some made final derogatory comments and posted a few mean-spirited and obscene memes. But Jesus did not reply to the insults hurled at Him.  He’d been through this before.

But there were still a number of people remaining in the Chat.  There were conservatives, liberals, and progressives. Moderates, too.  Complementarians, egalitarians. Believers of all shapes, colors, sizes, nationalities, denominations and doctrinal beliefs. One woman commented “Lord, that’s hard!”

“I know”, Jesus replied

Those remaining paused as each felt a stirring in their souls, the implication of His response washing over them.  It was a twinge of guilt mixed with a generous helping of mercy.

“I don’t even know where to begin!” many lamented.

“Why not start with I Corinthians 13; there’s nice list of possibilities there.  It’s not just meme material or a screen saver. It’s how I love you – patient, kind… Why not start with kind?”

“Do Facebook Likes and posts count?” one person joked.

“Oh, yes! What comes out of the mouth and the keyboard proceeds from the heart. A meme I saw recently said ‘Tweet others as you want others to tweet you.’ J

“Uh, Lord I’ve got to go.  I’ve got some apologies to make.  And some Facebook posts to delete.”

Though none really wanted to leave the presence of their Lord, they felt the same urgency.


Jesus reassured them telling them “It’s ok to go.  I’m always near.  I am with you always to the end of the age.”