The Prodigal returns…

I read a story on the Huffington Post this morning about a Dad writing a note to his gay son about how he had over heard his son talking on the phone with his friend about how he was going to come out to him. There was section of the note that really struck me as beautiful and that section really brought me back again to the story of the prodigal son.

“I’ve known you were gay since you were six.  I’ve loved you since you were born.”

This acceptance, this love is beautiful. The son was scared and uncertain but his Dad made it alright with his note. As the son prepared to come forward the Dad ran to him with open arms and loved him. We should all love like this. Loving unconditionally. Loving people for who they are as that is who God created them to be. Imagine if the Church let go of judgement and just loved. Imagine how the world would see us if we followed Jesus decree and just loved one another.

Let us be known for our love.
Let us be known for how well we love one another.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 – The Message

Spiritual Muscles.

Morning

Every pen in my house appears to be empty. It’s my own fault really, I keep putting empty pens back in the drawer. This morning I pulled pen after pen out of the drawer in my attempts to find one that worked. The thing is they all look perfectly fine. From the outside they are lovely looking pens but when you try to get them to write, there’s nothing they can do for you. It’s all looks and no substance with my pens.

It’s that time of year again when looks really matter. When people join gyms and start to run because they want this year to be the year that things change. They want to look good and feel good. I’m all about feeling good and have been drinking my green smoothies almost daily to help with that. Taking care of the body is important after all as it is a gift from God, but while we are taking care of our bodies we cannot forget that our spirit needs care as well. It’s kind of like my pens. Your body can look great from the outside but if you haven’t taken care of your spiritual and emotional needs it can be all looks and no substance with you. We don’t want that, do we?

The thing no one ever tells you {even though they should} is that you have to work your spiritual body out just as much {okay maybe even a little more} than your physical one. Everyday we need to set time aside to be with God so we can be full and strong for the day ahead. This time spent in prayer and reflection is where we grow our spiritual ‘muscles’ and find new ways of looking at things.  This time is what so many of us need but don’t get because we’ve packed our lives to the brim with so many things. This being the season of resolution, I say let’s change that. Let this be the year that we prioritize our spiritual health. Let’s resolve to meet God in the morning and see what changes might come from starting our day in God’s midst.

Some tips to get started:

– Set your alarm for 45 minutes before you usually wake up.  This gives you 15 minutes to drag yourself out of bed, grab a coffee and settle in where you are comfortable.

– Grab your Bible and some means of taking notes {either a pen and paper, your iPad or whatever you’re comfortable with}.  You don’t have to journal or write out every thought you’ve had but writing out piece of scripture that really resonates or jotting down a quick thought can be a great way to really solidify an idea.

– If you don’t just want to jump from section to section find a Bible reading plan. Personally I love reading plans because they keep me on track and focused.  You Version is a great free online service that has Bible Reading Plans available for the iPad and for Computers.  You can also print out a Bible in 90 Days guide or go with the Canadian Bible Society and their Bible Reading Plans if you’d like.

– If you sleep in, don’t feel bad. Just try again the next day and don’t give up. It can be hard to get into a routine but if you persevere you’ll get there.

– If you’re really absolutely not able to get up in the morning you can of course do this at night but can I suggest you at least try getting up a little earlier for a period of time. I used to sleep until the last possible minute too but now that I have a routine in place I love the solitude and peace I find in the early morning hours. It’s not for everyone of course but you might find it’s not as bad as you thought if you give it a chance and it can really set up your day in a positive way.

Remember there is no such thing as failure, only more chances to succeed.  If building a routine doesn’t come easily cut yourself some slack and know that it will come in time.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” – Philippians 3:12 NIV

P.S. – For any ministers reading this, sermon writing and service prep doesn’t count.  You still need time for you and God to connect individually.  It will help recharge and replenish you.  Seriously, you need to take care of yourself.

His peace he leaves with us.

Candle

I remember sitting around campfires with my Dad when I was younger. Together we would sing in the darkness and the light from the fire would keep us warm and feeling safe. One of my favorite songs he taught me resonates inside me today. I remember it well. “His peace he gives to us. His peace he leaves with us. Not for us alone but that we might give it again to all men.” I have no idea who wrote this song {and Google doesn’t either for that matter} but whoever it was has my thanks.  This verse is a constant reminder to me of John 14:27 and Jesus’ assurance that he offers peace and a reminder that we should not be afraid.

It’s hard not to be afraid, isn’t it? Even with Jesus’ reminder that we don’t need to be afraid there are days when this world is a dark, lonely place. Days when all we see on the television is devastation and despair. When we discover that humanity can do horrible things. When we learn of children and adults lost in a dreadful shooting.  How can we possibly wrap our heads around it? Our hearts break for the people involved and the temptation is there for us to withdraw and hide, to sneak away from the world which hurts so many.

In this temptation I am again drawn back into John. His peace he gives to us…not for us alone but that we might give it again to all men. We are called to share his peace and bring light back into the world around us. Matthew 5: 14-16 puts it another way “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (The Message).  

As followers of Christ we are called into open lives, lives which allow the light of God to shine through. We are called to live in love, for love, spilling love out to others as we go. We’re to shine so that others may see God in us and isn’t that what the world needs right now? A light, a shining light to direct them to the ultimate comfort giver. This world needs people willing to fight for things like peace and love. As we sit here in Advent, waiting for answers that might never come we must help bring peace and security into this world. As we wait in Advent hoping for a champion to save us from ourselves, we must remember Jesus came to us as a baby, as a child who would show us what it was to truly live life. As we sit together waiting, wondering we must live as he showed us, unafraid to share his peace and light, unafraid to reach out into the world with love and hope.

Beginning now let’s live the life he taught us to live, boldly sharing his light and peace with those around us.  We should pray for the the families in Connecticut and for those around the world who have experienced darkness and terror but let’s not stop there. Together we will funnel our energy into good, harnessing the love we’ve been given and then spill it out into the world.  We will reach out to those we know, to those who are hurting in our own communities.  We will discover ways to serve and make a difference in this world. In times like these we cannot hide, we must push forth and live completely in this world.  We must now find a way to be the change that is needed, to make this world safer and provide hope for those who feel hopeless.  Let’s be the light this world needs.  Let’s shine together and see how the darkness lifts.

The Advent 2012 Project

It’s that time of year again.  That time of year when we put up the lights and string garland on the trees.   The Christmas Carols play in the background and the smell of cookies lingers in the air.  Christmas brings with it an intense stream of activity and movement.  Sometimes things get so busy and overwhelming we forget what it is that the holidays are all about.  For that reason I took the Advent Project in a different direction this year.

This year it’s not just a list of activities, it now incorporates a study/reflection component.  It is my hope that together we will journey towards the manger and make sense of what the holidays are truly meant to be.  Some days are more reflective than others and some incorporate some action. I hope we can use this as a chance to embrace the holidays and not allow them to overwhelm us.  I want this to be one way we can embrace the holidays, our faith and really sink in to what it means to have God meet us here on earth.

I’d love for you to join me as I journey towards the manger.  I’ll be blogging a bit about my progress and the study in general throughout the Advent season and I’d like to hear how you’re doing with it and what you’ve discovered while doing it.  I’ve uploaded it here in PDF form for you to download to make it easier to read and handle.  Let’s do this together.  Let’s set aside some time in our day to really sink into the Christmas message.

What does it mean to have God meet us here on earth?  Join me and we’ll find out together…

 

God-as-man

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…if you go shopping that is.

While I may be not-so-secretly listening to the occasional Christmas tune I have not yet begun to really think about Christmas celebrations. I’ve planned all my services and have outlines at the ready but that’s different I think. That’s just working ahead. I haven’t begun buying presents or decorating. The retailers however would like me to start. Christmas is the holiday for retailers. There is no other holiday that rivals it’s mass consumption. Easter is trying but Christmas takes the cake. Every year around Christmas we see the constant advertisements and hear the music and get swept up in the season that is Christmas.

For those of us who are Christian, Christmas is about more than a jolly man in a red suit with 8 flying reindeer. Christmas is about a baby who comes and changes our world. Christmas is the beginning of God’s journey on earth with us. It’s a beautiful beginning with angels and shepherds and a little later on some wise guys who bring great gifts. Christmas is a beautiful, easy beginning to a difficult journey. Why do I say it’s easy? That’s simple. God comes in the form of a baby. A baby who can’t say anything or contribute anything. All he can really do is sit in that manger and look pretty.

Christmas is the easy holiday for Christians. It’s the reason there are 50% more people in the pews on Christmas Eve than any other time of the year. A baby cannot ask anything of you. The baby who comes with a promise but has not actually got the ability to challenge you personally as he lives out that promise is a lot more agreeable to most people than the man that baby grew up to be. None of us like to be challenged and none of us really want to be told we need to change.

When you begin preparations this month remember you’re not just celebrating a baby, you’re celebrating the birth of God-as-man and he would change the world. The entrance of God is something to celebrate. The entrance of God may be easy but the presence of God is not. Invite God in this month. Invite God in before Advent begins and meet God as God is. Read a little about the man this baby would become. One of my favorite places to read about this man is in the book of Matthew. I am particularly fond of chapter 6 if you’re looking for a starting point as every time I read it I find it challenges me to think about things differently. That’s the thing about Jesus, he challenges and he changes you.

Are you ready for change?
Are you ready to be challenged?
How do you plan to prepare for the advent of God-as-man on earth?

As the winds blew.

The winds were fierce around my house last night.   The windows shook and large trees were uprooted in my neighbors yard as we huddled together upstairs in the dark.  It was wicked and wild and nothing at all like what the people of New Jersey or New York went through.  I am grateful to be safe here in our house.

It’s amazing how well a few candles light up a room.  We had a flash light and crank radio on hand but I lit a few candles and found the room had a lovely soft glow.  I was able to write a bit and there was no distraction in the form of the internet or the telephone.  I was able to just sit with my thoughts and express some thoughts on the page.

As I sat in that softly lit room listening to the wind swirl around us I thought a little about what it means to be the light of the world.  It’s not something we really think about now as we’ve got switches and lamps in every room.  We have light until we don’t want it any more and can duplicate the outdoors almost perfectly.  There is almost always light around us.  Even in our bedrooms we have the neon lights of our alarm clocks flashing so we’re never truly in the dark.

What does it mean to be the light of the world? 

“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 NIV

What does it mean to be the light of the world when there are neon signs and florescent lights everywhere? 

I think perhaps we shouldn’t try to compete with the neon signs and florescent lights.  When we need to be like the light perhaps we should turn off the lights to get perspective.  It would seem to me that we’re trying to compete, to grab the attention of the world by being like the world but Jesus says we’re to be the light of the world, not the world itself.  If we are to be the light, to show people that there is something better out there than perhaps we should be different from what is out there in the world.

I want to be a soft glow.  Something that is noticeable and warm.  Not sharp like a florescent light but soft like a candle.  Perhaps we need to rethink our approach.  Maybe we shouldn’t look to the world for ideas but instead should look inwards and find that light, that soft glow from the message that needs to shine.  Maybe it isn’t all about production value but is instead about the message we wish to send.

What does it meant to be the light of the world?  I’d love to know what you think. 

Rooted in love.

Yesterday my son, his best ‘friend’ Monkey Monkey and I made the journey to place where my siblings live. We had lunch, went to Costco and generally had fun.  Monkey Monkey went with us everywhere as my son is his caretaker.  He feeds him, kisses him and puts him to bed each day.  Sometimes if something particularly bad has happened I need to give Monkey Monkey a kiss to make it better.  My son really loves his friend.  Most kids have something they love like this.  It’s hoped I guess that the love they show for their favorite toy/blanket/insert thing here is a reflection of the love they are getting.  When a child is rooted in love, is established in love they learn to love others in that model.

I guess you could say that who we are is a reflection of where we’ve been and who we’ve grown with.  I find it curious that some of my real life blogging friends are writing about the ‘toxic sludge’ that has invaded our local churches.  They’ve spoken of the anxiety and toxic mess we find ourselves in and they want to dig us out of the mess.  As I read about their dreams and desires I find myself wondering how we got into this mess in the first place. It’s curious that an organization which claims to be keepers of the truth would have deteriorated this far.  I think it’s safe to say we are in trouble and we need help.

This morning my devotions took me to the 3rd chapter of Ephesians and I ran across this verse:

“…And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 NIV

The problem could be that we aren’t rooted in love, we’re rooted in sludge.  Some people would say this isn’t so.  They’d say that we’re rooted in love but the world is in sludge. They’d say that people ‘out there’ just don’t like church anymore and it’s not our fault that we’re {anxious/depressed/frustrated/angry}, it’s theirs.  It’s their fault that we’re in financial hardship.  It’s their fault that we’re struggling to attract people.  It’s their fault…

I think it’s easier to blame others than it is to see that you’re in fact part of the problem.  Look at the Pharisees.  They were good, devout people and they had a lot of rules to follow.  They weren’t technically wrong you know.  There were loads of rules and they knew them by heart.  They spoke the truth of the law a lot of the time but they never got to the heart of the message.  To know something and live something are two different things.  The Pharisees spoke truth but failed to act in love.  They were rooted in tradition and rules instead of God and God’s gift of the law.  They knew the truth but they didn’t live it.

One thing that set Jesus apart from the religious people of his day was his desire to love people and share that love with others.  He spoke God’s truth in this world.  He spoke love to all people and lived a life that was accessible to everyone.  We need to live like this, rooted in the love of God and established in his word and accessible to all people.

When I watch my son love his Monkey Monkey I feel so incredibly blessed.  This little boy knows how to love in a big way.  He’s lived in love, been surrounded by love from a large extended family and collection of friends and that has shown him what love is.  He’s taken what he’s seen and made it his own. As a family we’re not perfect by any measure but that’s okay.  We try and we love and we continuing living in that love. This is what the church should be. We should be first and foremost a collection of people who try and love and live in that love.

Who we are is what our legacy will be.  If we don’t address this toxicity and fear we will pass this to the next generation as a model for what the church should be.  We are called to be living in truth, living in love.

Paul addresses this futher on in the book of Ephesians when he says:

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us…” Ephesians 4:31-5:1 NIV

If we live in God and are rooted in God’s love we will follow God’s example.  Who we are is reflective of where we are rooted.

I guess the question remains, are we rooted in love?
I suspect that if we root ourselves in love we’ll find ways to get out of the mess that we are in.

What do you think?

 

The Zondervan NIV Style Line Bibles: A review and giveaway!

When Zondervan contacted me about a new line of Bibles they were releasing and asked if I’d be willing to do a review I jumped at the chance.  I wanted to see what their new bindings looked like and if they were a necessary addition to the world of Bibles at large. When the box arrived I was as excited as a kid in a candy shop. It was love at first sight as far as looks are concerned.

Would you believe those were Bibles?  No?  Neither would I if I hadn’t witnessed it first hand.

Truthfully if someone had suggested to me that there was a need for stylish Bibles before discovering the Style Line I might’ve given them the side eye and wondered why.  I never thought the Bible needed to be pretty but I think having seen these I may have over looked something very important, people need to like their Bibles in order to want to read them. This line is attractive, lightweight and portable and I’ve found they are an interesting conversation piece. When someone asks what you’re reading you’ve got a great opportunity for sharing the Gospel. Definitely a winner in my eyes.

The pink Trimline Bible that arrived in this preview pack was perfect for combatting my workspace clutter. I love that it lays flat on the my table while I’m reading. On chilly mornings when I want a cup of coffee during devotions, I can hold my cup with both hands and feel its warmth as I study the word. It lays flat on my desk when I’m writing sermons which is a lifesaver {no more constant googling of this weeks text}! It’s compact size means it is not relegated to the bookcase and I can always grab it if I have a few moments to write or prepare. One of the best features of this Bible is the fact that it is not on the iPad so there is no Facebook or Twitter temptation. This Bible has been getting a lot of use!

As I currently travel from place to place on Sunday mornings I need a Bible to read from. It has to be lightweight, portable and easy to read from. I decided to test the Grey Woolen Style Line Bible and it worked very well.  I love the fact that it has a flap which protects the pages inside while it’s traveling. It is lightweight, durable and very pretty. It fit in my purse perfectly and was not heavy at all as I completely forgot to remove it before traveling to my Mom’s for dinner and didn’t notice until I opened my purse that it was in there. This will definitely be my go to travel Bible for ministry things in the future as it looks professional but reflects my personality.

The other collections are equally lovely. The Cherry Red Quilted Bible popped with color when I first saw it. I knew instantly that my sister would love a Zebra print Bible {and she confirmed this when I showed her the preview!}. The flora and fauna collection is gorgeous and I know that it will definitely be a popular selection when these hit the shelves. If you’d like to check these out further you can head to the publishers page here and look at the different collections they offer.

As a special treat Zondervan is giving one of my readers a copy of the Cherry Red Quilted Bible {which you can sneak a peak at in the top picture of the collection on the blog}.  All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below and say why you’d like a copy.  Remember Christmas is coming and this would be a great gift! Entries will be accepted until Saturday October 13th at 11:59 pm and I’ll announce a winner as soon as the random entry generator has done it’s job.  The giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States.  Good luck!

I’d like to thank Zondervan for providing the preview copies for me to review and enjoy.  The opinions are mine formed as a result of using them over the past few weeks.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

The winner of the giveaway is Margo16 thanks to the generator at random.org.  I thank you all for entering the contest and I hope you like the Bible Margo!

Biblical Beauty: A review

One of the best things about writing a blog is the different people and products you get to discover. I was delighted earlier this year to have been contacted by Rachelle Weisberger about reviewing her book Biblical Beauty. I was intrigued to see how she brought ancient traditions together with modern solutions and I wanted to see if I was in fact doing anything right in the beauty spectrum. So I dug in, I read the book and then my summer of weddings took over so I didn’t get a chance to write down my thoughts and ideas. The delay actually worked out quite well in the end. I was able to use some of her tips and tricks and really get a sense for what the book was about.

Overall I enjoyed this book. While it wasn’t theologically deep, I really enjoyed it and found the writing to be engaging and easy to read. As I read I was reminded that the people in the Bible were in fact people like us who would have in fact spent time getting ready in the morning. It forced me to reflect on what God would want from me in terms of beauty and time spent getting ready. I enjoyed the look into the history of cosmetics and how modern women today can employ ancient techniques to achieve the results we are looking for and I appreciated that Ms. Weisberger never focused on hiding the woman behind the makeup, instead looking to accentuate their natural God-given beauty.  It was an easy read, a fun summer manual and an excellent tool when one is looking to streamline and maximize the time alloted in the bathroom.

As I mentioned before we had four weddings this summer. They happened within five weeks of one another and I was maid of honor at one.  I was going to parties left right and centre.  I had places to go and little time to get ready. This steady stream of activity gave me ample opportunity to try out some of the techniques used in the book.  I found myself focusing a little more on my skin care products and skin care in general. I remembered to take tinted lip product and lip gloss with me wherever I went {which did in fact help to keep me looking pulled together all day} and I found myself cleaning out my bathroom cupboards and keeping only what worked for me. I was prompted to think about what it means to be beautiful in this world and it affirmed in me that my primary goal is to look pulled together and fresh, not like I tried too hard. Less is in fact more in so many ways.

Ultimately if you’re looking for a book on beauty that highlights both the inner and outer beauty of a woman while digging a little into history and faith this book is for you. I found it to be filled with helpful hints and was a fun, entertaining summer read.

If you’re interested in learning more about this book please check out the author’s website found here.

Disclamer: I received no money to write this review, I just received the book. These are my honest to goodness opinions about it and have not be swayed in anyway whatsoever.  

All this for a few Triscuits.

A devastating event occurred in the life of my almost three year old yesterday. We ran out of Triscuits. Those tasty rosemary and olive oil crackers that make his little heart sing were not available to him. He was so distraught. Good mother that I am I took him to the grocery store to pick up a few boxes. By a few, I mean piles. I not-so-secretly love them too. As we wrapped up our trip with grapes, crackers and a magazine in hand I was met at the check-out line by a very kind man who told me he had held a place for the lady behind him as she went to the bathroom. This was the beginning of the longest part of my day. The adventure that was getting these stupid crackers home.

After five minutes of waiting, I began to put my things on the long belt {leaving ample space should she return} and began to wonder if indeed she was coming back. She came back all right.  She came back and nearly plowed into me. Then she pushed all of my things into a pile and began going through them {to see if I had found anything she might’ve liked that she missed}. After all of her things got rung through she then demanded that the check out lady give her 4 dollars. From where I am not sure but the manager came over twice and 5 different transactions occurred. It was the single most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. She was seemingly unaware of anyone else around her and was extraordinarily demanding to the staff.

As I stood there I silently cursed my morning Bible sessions. A few mornings ago I found myself in the letters to the Galatians and have been mulling over this passage since. “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.” {Galatians 5:22-23}. I’ve been mulling it over because as I read it I thought to myself ‘You know the thing I have to work on here is probably patience’. Patience. And here I am presented with a golden opportunity for me in which to work on it. *SIGH*

Having my personal space invaded, my things messed up, my time wasted and then watching this lady treat the employee poorly tested my patience. What I wanted to do was tell her to stop being rude and perhaps be aware of those around her. What I wound up doing was talking to the people behind me who were also agitated by what was going on. In talking to them, we shared some laughs. The people behind them began laughing too. Soon we had a whole line up of people {4 carts long} in better spirits and when we finally began to check out the employee noticeably relaxed and began to share her stories of difficult customers with me. We all left feeling pretty good. I guess you could say that patience does pay off.

This is the trouble with being Christian. What you want to do and what you should do doesn’t always match but it does pay off. Faith doesn’t end on Sundays after church. It continues on throughout the week and often the Bible speaks to you when you least want it to. This morning as I was reading the Letter of James I was reminded again how important it is to exercise what we say we believe as “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” {James 2:17}. Imagine what the world would be like if we all attempted to practice these fruits of the spirit and lived by the statement “Love your neighbor as yourself”. How many lives could we change by practicing our faith instead of just believing it.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: