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It’s the end of the world (as we know it) — September 28, 2014

It’s the end of the world (as we know it)

…and I feel fine. I wanted to put that out there right up front, since this is not meant to be a gloom and doom kind of post.

If you’ve been in a church, like, ever, or you know someone who is remotely “religious” or even genuinely Christian, you’ve probably heard some speculation about the “end times”. Growing up, such talk terrified me. I honestly would have preferred a normal death to some terrifying Revelation reality. That was before a little book called “Heaven” by a terrifically imaginative author, Randy Alcorn.

Regardless of my changed heart to all things eternal, I still don’t find it too worthwhile to dwell on the Lord’s return, since he’s pretty clear on us not knowing the exact time.

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 NIV)

I cheerfully consider myself one of the children of the day, so reading through Revelations no longer scares me. My favorite comment was this recent gem: “I don’t know if these are the end times, but I do know we are closer today than we were yesterday”. Of course, that has been true every single day since Christ ascended. Let that give you some sense of perspective. In those days the Apostles thought they were in the end times.

One thing has held me back from a serious consideration or speculation. I have a hard time believing that God will allow all the death and destruction and war to happen outside these United States. That’s why this story of a random act of violence in Oklahoma, where a recent convert to Islam stabbed and beheaded one woman and stabbed another before being shot, is so alarming.

Saad Mohammad, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, told NewsOK.com that any anti-Muslim sentiments local residents might have could be heightened due to the beheadings and violence overseas by Islamic State militants. “They have this ISIS thing on their minds and now this guy has brought it to America,” Mohammad told the website.

The urgency this should prompt is only this: whether the end is at hand or not, we are on this earth for a short time. Our end is at hand.  My end. Your end. What are we doing with the moments we have left?

I know my Gilmore Girls: a rebuttal — September 15, 2014

I know my Gilmore Girls: a rebuttal

I’ve seen some posts listing the top five episodes of Gilmore Girls in honor of their recent move to Netflix. However, my complete series collection of DVDs is well worn and I am a trustworthy expert on what the best episodes actually are. Narrowing it to five is tough, but read ’em and then go Netflix, friend.

5. Those are Strings, Pinocchio, season 3, episode 22

It’s possible she never lets it go. I’m just saying.

4. Face-Off, season 3, episode 15

“How do I set my watch to “later”?” Just trust me.

3. Pulp Friction, season 5, episode 5

I like Logan, as unlikely as that may be. This one is a classic. If I ever dress up for Halloween, which is super unlikely, it will be like this.

2. Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out, season 6, episode 8

AKA the return of Jess.

1. You Jump, I Jump, Jack, season 5, episode 7

the aesthetics of this episode make me want to be Rory Gilmore more than just about anything. The idea of speaking without “e” is both strenuous and cool. The tents? The lanterns? The outfits!

“A once in a lifetime opportunity!” “Only if you want it to be”.

 image credit

a light and momentary affliction — September 12, 2014

a light and momentary affliction

This is one amazing verse. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth and he is encouraging them to bear their suffering.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

I can’t resist sharing it in this version, because I love the turn of phrase “momentary light affliction”.

For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB)

I think we undervalue the poetry found in the Bible – but I digress.

I was inundated with illustrations and discussions of suffering this week. Pop culture (A mom on the Biggest Loser who suffered seven miscarriages, prompting her trainer to tell her “no one should have to go through that), Christian radio (Focus on the Family did a bit on suffering with Pastor Tim Keller this week), and then reading through my Bible in a year plan (first time!) I’ve recently wandered into the book of Job.

What I love about the verse from Corinthians is Paul keeping it real here. Our troubles can only be classified as momentary, because we exist but for a moment. That really puts affliction into perspective.

Pastor Keller shared insights about our inability as a culture to endure suffering- believing that the universe can always be tweaked to ensure a comfortable and fair life for all. Why would God let good people suffer, we ask? The suffering of “good” people can keep our friends and family from committing to a personal relationship with Christ. A saving relationship. A necessary, urgent relationship.

I think Paul would have a little something to say to us here too. Perhaps this, from the book of Romans:

For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. (Romans 7:18-19 HCSB)

The truth is, there are no good people. We all deserve suffering. We cannot engineer evil and sin out of our world.

“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity? ” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:10 HCSB)

Job was a good guy (at least, through chapter two). As I was reading this verse struck me – Job clearly understood that all things work together for good (to those who love Christ). Adversity forges courage and strengthens character (as Pastor Tim Keller points out). Our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory. As we endure suffering, trusting in God, we shine our light. I argue that a proper perspective on suffering can be the best witness of all.

Praise is my strength — September 10, 2014
A Holy Experience – What Women Need to Say to Each Other to Shatter the Dark — September 8, 2014

A Holy Experience – What Women Need to Say to Each Other to Shatter the Dark

I clicked on this link and it made my entire day more wonderful.

“how when a woman smiles she shatters the dark.”

“You are a treasured possession, and love is being lavished on you and you aren’t ever rejected but loved everlastingly and over you, over you — God sings this everlasting love song.”

A Holy Experience – What Women Need to Say to Each Other to Shatter the Dark.

Girls, wonderful women who need to hear this today, I love you. More importantly, God loves you. And when I see you tonight, I will hug you and tell you “you are so beautiful”.

You find out who your friends are — September 7, 2014

You find out who your friends are

I read this great article about friendship that gave this explanation I think really defines the two type of relationships in the world.

I love you, because I love you, you are mine.

You are mine, because you are mine, I love you.

This reinforces my previously stated epiphany that parental love is the example of love we should all model – because the love I have for my children exists naturally and without requirement. They are mine (if only temporarily) and I am crazy in love with them. There is nothing that can take away the love I have for each of them.

I find that many other types of relationships take the first approach. I chose my husband, he chose me. I love him. He loves me. I choose to love him and he chooses to love me. And because I love him, he is mine. As long as he loves me, I am his.

I’ve always held the belief that loving is a choice we must make daily to sustain a healthy relationship. What if we change our way of thinking? I’ve chosen my husband, he is mine. Because he is mine, I love him. He chose me, I am his. Because I am his, he loves me. Our ownership status, so to speak, doesn’t change. As a result, our love is not an option. It is part of who we are.

And I’ll be so bold as to suggest we extend this thought process to friends, to family, to our church. If we commit to belonging, we love as an extension of that, and we extend grace to our beloveds the way Christ extends his love and grace to us. Our friends and families become the sheep, and as shepherds, we seek one lost sheep, rejoicing when it is found. We don’t let one sheep go and count ourselves better off. We don’t make the sheep earn our love and favor once it returns. We don’t expect perfection from the sheep. We love. We forgive. We belong.

I’m up to my elbows in dirt and tomatoes — September 3, 2014

I’m up to my elbows in dirt and tomatoes

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3‬:‭11-13‬ NIV)

this summer I made a commitment to live a simple life. I planted a garden. I directed the addition of a clothesline to our yard. I designated a single day for shopping and tried hard to stick to it. I began to divest myself of accumulated collections, trying to do the most good with the things filling up our home. I started baking from scratch. I tried to make it a habit to prepare my husband’s lunches. I even got into a routine of household chores.

I also read a book called “Heaven”. Randy Alcorn’s tome on the new Jerusalem provided vivid images of what Heaven will be like and what it might be like.

Reading through the book of Ecclesiastes might make me wonder a bit at the so-called wisdom of Solomon, but this passage brings me enormous comfort. God has created everything to be beautiful. He wants me to find satisfaction in this life. learning to dwell in the simple beauty of my life as a wife and mother, while feeling that tug of eternity set in my heart? He’s given me a taste of Heaven. Give me an eternity of my children’s laughter, of my husband feeling loved, and even of dirt and endless tomatoes. these are the gifts I treasure on earth and the longings I know God will fulfill in Heaven.

Father, You created me. You have equipped me to fulfill Your purpose. the desire I feel has been placed in my heart for a reason, and You will not leave it unfulfilled. All glory and praise to You, who sent Your Son to die for me, that I may see Heaven.

Amen.

I’m going to wash your feet — September 2, 2014

I’m going to wash your feet

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17 NIV)

I’m pretty uncomfortable with the idea of washing feet. I get that Christ meant it to say that we should care for each other and I’ve always been a little relieved that in this time and place there are other less “foot” ways to care for others. I’ve spent time lately praying for God to show me what modern acts can be my time of foot washing.

I’m equally uncomfortable with the notion of you washing my feet, unless I’ve paid you and you plan to paint my toenails after. Realizing that the second key part of the example also applied to me made the way to relate to the example of humility and servitude Christ gives us crystal clear.

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8 NIV)

Serving others is about doing things that you might find uncomfortable, sometimes for the simple reason that others may find being served uncomfortable.

I was thinking last night about visiting a friend and while they were working through the week, serving them by cleaning and doing laundry, cooking and gardening and shopping. Letting them relax and enjoy a week of stress-free evenings. Maybe stopping by and watching a small child while Mom takes an hour or two to do anything – just enjoying the indulgence of some alone time. Mowing someone’s lawn without asking. Feeding a neighbor for no reason at all. Weeding a garden. Caring for a parent who’d rather I didn’t. Washing a car. Paying someone’s bill. And doing all of these things while ignoring any attempts of resistance.

Sometimes, getting someone to accept a gift of love and caring requires more effort than providing the gift itself. Maybe they have a sense of pride that won’t allow them to accept help. Or an issue with control, not believing someone else could accomplish a task the way they do it. Maybe they just feel like they don’t deserve your kindness. Find a way to help anyway.

The world calls it “random acts of kindness”. Let the people you serve see it as random, but be intentional, because when you serve others, you serve Him.

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ ” (Mathhew 25:40 NIV)