Friday, July 27, 2007

There's a Name for It

I like mysteries. I like to read mystery novels, and watch mystery movies. I like to pick up on the subtle 'clues' along the way to try to determine 'who dunnit' before the plot is actually revealed. I knew that Dr. Nichols murdered Richard Kimble's wife in the first 5 minutes of the movie, way before Tommy Lee Jones did.*

I do that sometimes, too, when reading my Bible. Something I read will strike me as obscure, or unusual, like a 'clue' to something I need to know. And so I'll do a little 'digging' to try to learn more, and sometimes I uncover a nuance that speaks directly to me and/or a situation I am dealing with.

I read the other day that there's actually a name for that! Midrash. In Hebrew, it means to search out, and it's a Jewish tradition that invites deeper exploration of Scripture. Judith Kunst (The Burning Word) describes it as reading the Bible "not for what is familiar, but for what is unfamiliar, not for what's clear but for what's unclear... Midrash views the Bible as one side of a conversation, started by God, containing an implicit invitation... to keep the conversation going." Nothing in the Bible is there by accident, so Midrash motivates us to take the oddball verses or inconsistencies and, with God's help, to try to discover why they are included in His Word. Often, I take my queries to Bruce, or to our kids, and we continue the conversation, bouncing ideas off one another or sharing our thoughts.

Proverbs 25:2 says, It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Sounds like Midrash to me.

*(Uh, hope you've already seenThe Fugitive; if not, sorry I spoiled the ending)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good Readings

I've read some good books lately, two of which are noteworthy and so I thought I'd share...

Leaper, The Misadventures of a Not-Necessarily-Super Hero, by Geoffrey Wood, is a very funny and yet introspective novel about a journey of faith. The hero one day discovers he has a super-power of 'leaping', and this is the vehicle to help him learn about relationships... with other people and with God. Sounds trite; it's anything but. It begins with the ending, and then the pieces are filled in via a combination of laugh-out-loud and 'ah, gee' moments.

I'm going to read it again, not just because I liked it, but because the ending isn't the ending, and I'm not sure what it all means. And, I don't want to just 'jump' to conclusions.

Another good book, which I read much more slowly, with lots of time to reflect, is the organic God, by Margaret Feinberg. She takes a look at God's character in a fresh way and in her words... is seeking a relationship with God... that is stripped of all pollutants and additives of this world. Not sure that's entirely possible, but there were moments I was reading, and I thought... I've never thought of that :-)
It's kind of like a king-sized blog, and she blends stories of her Jewish heritage with her unconventional upbringing and her Christian faith. Some of the attributes she ascribes to God are: bighearted, outrageously generous, surprisingly talkative, and deeply mysterious. My favorite... wildly infallible.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peace, Out

In the movie, Miss Congeniality, the character of Gracie mocks the contestants in a beauty pageant for what she perceives as an airhead answer to a deep question. When asked, "What is the one most important thing our society needs?, the contestants all reply, "World peace." And the audience cheers.
When I was a little girl, I remember one day sitting next to my mom on our couch as she was handling some correspondence. She was actually sending a contribution to a missionary organization, which had also invited people to send them prayer requests which they would undertake in prayer. The reply card invited people to list their one most heartfelt prayer (if you could ask God for one thing, what would it be?). As a child, I had witnessed the power of prayer, so I was very excited about this prospect, and asked her... what did you ask for??? I had visions of millions of dollars, or a baby sister, or a puppy. So, I was disappointed when she told me that she had already written her request.... Peace.

Peace? Huh? You sure about that, Mom?? And I remember the peaceful look she gave me, as she said something like, if we have the Peace of God, everything else will fall into place. Puzzled, I figured that my mom blew the chance to be rich, and I ran off to play.

I realize now that my mother was wiser than I knew.

I was reading in my Bible this morning about peace. The first thing Jesus said to his disciples when He appeared to them after His resurrection was, "Peace be with you!" They were together, with the doors locked, in fear for their lives. And He said, "Peace". Having a 'dead' person appear before them might have added a bit to their fear, but He didn't say, "Don't be afraid". He offered them peace. His friend, Thomas, wasn't around that day, and for whatever reason, he doubted it. So, Jesus repeated the scene about a week later, when Thomas was there. Again the first thing He said was, "Peace be with you!"

Sometimes, when Jesus healed someone, he told them, "Go in peace". (Mark 5:34, Luke 7:50, 8:48). And when the angels declared the birth of the savior, they annnounced..."Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." The reason we need a savior was because sin alienated us from our Creator, Jesus's sacrifice on the cross reconciled us to Him, and brings ... peace. God's intended world was not one of sin, destruction, sickness and death. Reconcilliation with Him, the Prince (and source) of Peace, brings the promise of restoration of His original intention for us.

Jesus's answer to fear, doubt, sickness, and death was ... peace. His peace. The Hebrew word shalom (peace) conveys tranquility, wholeness and completion. To enjoy shalom is to enjoy health, satisfaction, success, safety, well-being and prosperity.*

This is significant to me, because something was troubling me this morning. I needed peace. I prayed, and His peace became the answer to my fear and doubt. One of the last things Jesus said to his friends on earth, the thing He wanted them to remember was this: "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

World peace? Maybe it's not such an airhead answer afterall.

* Ann Spangler, Praying the Names of Jesus

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?"*

I was baptized as a baby, and subsequently publicly 'confirmed' years later what was said on my behalf as an infant. However, having fully committed my life to follow Christ as an adult, I came to believe that I needed to be baptized again, intentionally and of my own volition. At that time, baptisms at our church were part of the church services, and each person being baptized gave a brief testimony of why they were being baptized. While I truly wanted to be baptized, the thought of doing that in front of all the people in the actual service terrified me, and that fear was winning the internal battle I fought each time the Baptism services were announced.

One summer, years ago, we were vacationing at Heritage, USA, and they happened to have Baptisms in one of their swimming pools one afternoon each week. I decided to take the plunge while we were there. Although I thought the relaxed 'pool atmosphere' was the answer to my 'fear factor' and somewhat of a 'comfort zone', I nonetheless was sincere in my heartfelt desire to be baptized, and like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36-38)*, I didn't think it was a 'cop out' to not have a 'crowd'. Afterall, who would bother to hang around the indoor pool on a sunny, uneventful, Tuesday afternoon???

The venue was a large indoor pool in the main lobby of the hotel. I arrived at the appointed time for the pre-Baptism teaching and preparation, about 1 hour prior to the actual event. The pastor talked with each of us to be sure we knew what we were doing and why. There were about 20 of us sharing our 'testimonies' with each other in the little gazebo next to the pool, and while I was a bit nervous, I was very glad to be getting baptized, and happy that courage finally kicked in and suppressed my fear.

I knew that Bruce and our 3 daughters were going to 'watch' from one of the 4 balconies which surrounded the hotel atrium/lobby and pool, so I looked up to try to locate them, and realized that ...a rather large crowd was assembling. And over the next 20 minutes or so, it grew to a gathering much larger than I would have faced at one of our church services (it was a big lobby). So much for my desire to avoid attention! I could picture in my mind, God smiling at me, and saying, "GOT YA!" And I smiled and thought, "Yes, you did!" He gave me the opportunity to do something which He wanted me to do, and I wanted to do, but needed a gentle push.

Surprisingly enough, as the crowd grew ... and grew, anxiety dwindled. I blocked out the people, and focused on my Baptizer. It was a special moment, and a cherished memory.

I was thinking about this today, because in a few weeks, our church is having a group Baptism, in a big swimming pool, in our church lobby! It's part of our Take a Stand Weekend, and will provide a wonderful opportunity, and maybe a gentle push, for many people to take this important step right then and there!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Hawk and the Crows

The other day, Bruce and I were sitting on our deck watching a hawk soaring above our backyard. Suddenly, a bunch of crows started harassing the hawk, diving at it, making that annoying noise that they make. The hawk flew around a bit, trying to avoid the harangue of the black birds. And after just a few minutes, I was surprised to watch the hawk give up, and fly like crazy, leaving its territory for the crows to settle.

Hawks are 'raptors', bird of prey, ...with powerful wings, sharp beaks, and powerful deadly talons. They can spot their prey from a lofty perch, or often catch it while flying. With a wingspan of 4 to 4.5 feet, and a body of almost 2 feet in length, the average Red-Tailed Hawk is a tusker compared to the crow. I wondered why the hawk, turned-tail and fled, rather than just fight them off.

Maybe, the hawk was having an identity crisis.

Occasionally, so do I. Sometimes, it seems like I am being 'ambushed' by a proverbial bunch of lousy crows (I'm the majestic hawk ). Expectations flee to doubt, hopes fade to disappointment, and fears settle my territory. I may fly around a bit, thinking they'll leave, but sometimes they are so noisy.

Neil Anderson (Victory Over the Darkness) says, that an individual will never consistently perform or behave higher than he perceives himself to be. At our church, we have a Spiritual Breakthrough Retreat every three months. The key to spiritual breakthrough is knowing our identity. As a believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, my identity is in Him; His victory and authority are my victory and authority. When confronted by my enemy, I need to act like a 'raptor'.

The Bible says, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7). The Word of God is a tool to that end. Often, specific scripture verses have become my weapon for chasing away the crows and holding the territory God gives me*.

Hawks are a protected species. Crow are pests. And in most states, there's no bag limit on how many crows hunters may kill. I am protected by God Almighty; there's no limit to the power He wields on my behalf.

"...I will throw my net over them; I will pull them down like the birds in the sky. When I hear them flocking together, I will catch them. Hosea 7:12

*Psalm 5:11-12, Psalm 124:7, Eph. 1:19, Luke 10:19, 20, Malachi 3:17, 4:2

Athlete in Action

A long time family friend, Rachel Frederick, recently returned from a three week trip to Brazil with Athletes In Action. We've had the pleasure of knowing the Fredericks for many years and watching Rachel blossom into a lovely young woman, and a very gifted athlete.

Rachel is a member of the Ohio University women's basketball team, and has received numerous accolades and awards for her athletic ability. She took that talent, along with her faith in Christ, to kids in Brazil, where she was part of a team that played some exhibition games, and ran basketball camps for younger athletes.

She's featured in an article online at .

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In Case You Missed It

Every now and then I'll come across a story on that makes me smile. This is one of them. It's not about someone doing a good deed, doesn't contain any drama, and probably has no intrinsic value. It's about a guy who, as a child, imagined he could fly, and did.

Unconventional, yes. Silly, maybe. Certainly dangerous,... but nobody got hurt except for a few rope burns. And while it may seem that this guy doesn't aim very high in his 'dreams', at least he lived his (twice, actually).

Last weekend, Kent Couch ... kissed his wife goodbye, petted his Chihuahua, "settled down in his lawn chair with some snacks..." and then flew 193 miles, aloft for 9 hours until he decided to land just outside of Hells Canyon in Oregon! He concocted a 'flying machine' using 105 helium balloons, some plastic bags filled with water (for ballast) and a GPS in his pocket. He said, "When you're a little kid and you're holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind." It crossed mine, a few times, I must admit.

The part of the story that made me smile, though, had to do with a previous 'flight' of another balloon-man, who rose 3 miles above Los Angeles in 1982. A surprised airline pilot radioed the control tower that he had "just passed a guy in a lawn chair." Imagine being in a window seat on that plane :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

It Came From Beneath the Earth

Today, I was a husband. Well, I guess technically, the term is 'husbandman'. The definition is "one whose business it is to cultivate the ground. It was one of the first occupations, and was esteemed most honourable ." I'm probably still stretching it a bit, because I wasn't really 'cultivating the ground', I was gardening. Pulling weeds, digging, clipping dead leaves/flowers, feeding the plants, and spreading mulch is more like it. My husband was a husbandman, too. We didn't realize how old we are until at the end of the day, we could hardly move.

Anyhow, one of the things I dislike the most about gardening is worms. I don't like to see them, touch them, or even imagine them crawling around in the ground as I'm digging. I recently read an article about the Jamestown settlement, which said that originally, there were no earthworms in North America, and they likely arrived with the Jamestown colonists, who dumped ballast (European dirt and rocks) from their ships to make room for their tobacco exports. Over the centuries, the little buggers have multiplied and drastically altered the ecosystem.

The colonists brought honeybees, too. The fussy 'American' bees would only pollinate a few species of plants, but European honeybees, it seems, would pollinate anything. While the colonists brought the bees for their honey, the plants they brought with them wouldn't have proliferated without them, and Georgia probably wouldn't be called the Peach State.

Funny how little things can worm their way in unnoticed, but given a chance to grow, can change a whole landscape.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


I've not been online for a while, because, well, ...I've been off-line. Our ISP had some 'issues' and for almost 48 hours, we couldn't access email or connect to the Internet. A friend of mine sent me this cartoon, which of course I couldn't read till we were back on line, but it seems appropriate nonetheless. It was troubling to me how disturbed I was being 'disconnected'.

The problem started, so they say, with some storms we had last week which damaged phone lines, etc. We have DSL service which is through the phone line. After several hours , outwardly it seemed to be fixed... flashing lights stopped flashing, and unlit lights lit up. But, we still had no connectivity.

After having spent an hour on the phone with Tech support, resetting settings and rebooting and rebooting, it still wasn't resolved. So, my account was flagged as 'trouble'. That word must have great significance in cyber-repair, because I started getting phone calls from 'field technicians' who were replacing equipment on my behalf. And then, suddenly, the 'trouble' was corrected and it was working again. When the 'issues' were resolved, I had lots of catching up to do. Still doin' it.

Final thoughts from a commentary on Life Before The Computer... remember when memory was something that you lost with age, a program was a TV show, a cursor used profanity, a web was a spider's home, a virus was the flu, a hard drive was a long road trip, and a mouse pad was where a mouse lived :-)