Sunday, April 30, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 30, 2006

Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:6-53

As I read the passage in Matthew, this phrase jumped out at me...

"but some doubted."

Seriously? These eleven disciples walked with Jesus for several years, watched Him die, touched His resurrected body, and shared food and conversation after the resurrection and they still doubted? Doubted what, exactly?

I get so down on myself at times when I face times of doubt. Yet this passage is a great reminder that we all will face it at times. And these men went on the change the course of history, build the church and spread the gospel across the known world. My doubting will never limit God, He will use me in spite of it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 29, 2006

John 20:1-21:25

I like how this passage speaks of Mary Magdalene. She showed her dedication to the Lord in several ways:

- She gave up her own agenda to serve Him. John tells us that she arose very early, while it was still dark and went to the tomb. Other passages tell us that these woman were coming to anoint the body. They were coming to serve Him. And Mary was giving up sleep to do so.

- She was willing to take action. This passage tells us that she ran to tell Peter and John that he was missing. She could have sat there and waiting for someone else to notice. She could have assumed someone else would take care of it. But she didn't. She noticed the empty tomb and ran to tell someone.

- She wouldn't leave. After Peter and John leave the scene, Mary stays behind. I love this part of the story. It's almost as if she's so distraught she's staying close to the last place He was known to be. It's almost as if she's clinging to any bit of hope she can find by staying close to wear His body was mere hours before. She has no definite idea of what has happened and non clue how to solve the problem and find the body. So she's just staying close and waiting. And crying.

I wish I was more like her in some ways. When I am not sure what's going on in life and have no clue how to fix things, I'm just as likely to blame God as I am to cling to Him. I get better at trust all the time, but I still have so far to go.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Who-hoo! I finally caught up with my notes from the readings. Hopefully next week I'll be back with more regular updates and I have a few fun new features coming...

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 28, 2006

John 19:17-42

I have read that the Romans would crucify prisoners along the road into Jerusalem. They would leave them out there, hanging on the crosses so that people would see the example and not attempt any insurrection against the Roman government.

I'm not sure how accurate that is, or how long they left t he prisoners there, but I thought of that as I read the passage with Joseph of Arimathea claiming the body of Jesus. I wonder if they just left Jesus there as the crowd dispersed. Did Joseph have to take the cross down? Did they have to pull the nails out themselves?

John tells us that he did this with Nicodemus. Just the two of them. I imagine it to be a solemn process that must have grieved these men greatly. We have no record in this passage of the disciples or the women being nearby. They are only ones mentioned, these two followers of Jesus. I wonder if his disciples or family had been forbidden to take the body. John had expressly told us that Joseph had not disclosed his allegiance to Jesus. And Nicodemus was someone of great power and influence which was why he sought out Jesus at night. Maybe these men were the only ones allowed to take care the body.

That brings me to wonder what Jesus thought as he talked to Nicodemus back in the beginning of the gospels. I wonder if he thought about the next time they'd meet and the task Nicodemus would take on.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 27, 2006

John 18:19-19:16

The conversation between Jesus and Pilate in this passage floors me everytime I read it. There were several scenes in "The Passion of the Christ" that jumped at me and this scene between these men was one of them. When Pilate asks "What is truth?" I see a weary man, who has no idea of what to think about anything anymore.

When Solomon writes that there is nothing new under the sun he wasn't kidding. Even the enlightened ways of thinking we boast about aren't really new. Our nation has been swallowed whole by the idea that truth is relative, that there is nothing absolute, that my truth can be different than yours. It seems that that idea was rampant at that time too. Pilate questions what the truth really is as if there are different truths out there that contradict each other.

This way of thinking in our world today has always been a bit difficult for me to swallow. If we look so much to the logical workings of science and technology how can we think that there are no absolutes? How can we believer for a moment that two opposite thoughts can both be true? Are we so desperate to belive that we control the world and not God that we jump on any bandwagon that supports our desires? There's some pretty wacky things out there, but the belief that there's no truth in the world is really far out there, in my humber opinion, dear reader.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 26, 2006

Matthew 26:36-75

Let's talk about Peter, shall we? In an earlier passage this month we read that Jesus warned Peter he would betray Him. And Peter's response was? "No way. I'll NEVER do that." Hmm.... In my experience the minute I say never with such certainty I usually find myself doing exactly that in direct proportion to the fervor I denied it. The more vigorously I deny it, the sooner I tend to get down to doing it.

In fact, whenever I hear myself tell God something so definite, I almost always here a voice in my head saying, "Way to go, Peter!" I'm pretty sure I just messed up there somehow.

I always wonder then, should I not promise God anything? Is that just asking to be tempted to fail? I'm not sure of the answer to that. I do know I'd rather err on the side of trying to succeed though, then never giving myself a chance to fail. I don't think the Christian life is so much about success as it is about effort. You see, if it really is all about Him, all I have to do is my part. And sometimes that's promising to do better and trying with all my might to make it happen.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 25, 2006

John 14:1-16:33

This passage was a long one and way too much to blog about. I do want to mention, though, that another of my favorite verses in the Bible is in this passage, John 16:33. Jesus says "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

No one can say we weren't warned...

I always wonder about Christians who act like suffering is beneath them. I mean, I know that none of us chooses to suffer. But we are warned it's coming. It's not like any of us who read and study God's work shouldn't be aware of our fate. Suffering, sin, sickness, disease, famine, death, pain, tribulation and desolation entered the world when Adam and Eve choose unwisely and there's no stuffing the bad stuff back in the box. We've got to deal with it when it comes.

This is a pretty depressing thought until we get to the end of the verse. It's already over, dear friend! While we may have to deal with the effects of sin on our world, the battle is over and won. And one day we'll be dancing in the victor's circle with the one who battled suffering and came out the winner.

Monday, April 24, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 24. 2006

Matthew 26:17-30 and John 13:1-17

I have a somewhat irreverent sense of humor at times. I've tried to stifle it at times, but that never works for long. I say that because my thoughts as I read the passages on the last supper aren't quiet traditional.

When I read about the last supper of Jesus, my mind instantly goes to Agatha Christie. I am a huge murder mystery fan and love who-dunnit type novels. I read my way through many of the Christie's Hercule Poiroit and Miss Marple books during the summer breaks from college. If you're familiar with these, many of them end with the detective calling everyone into the drawing room and then he utters the words..."one of you is a murderer and I know who it is!" Then the lights would plunge out or everyone would start screaming or something else quite dramatic.

I loved those parts because it was fun to see people squirm as the detective uncovered their role in the evil deeds. It was also fun to see if I was right when I picked the butler or the lady's maid or whomever I thought did it earlier on.

That's why I think of this when I read the account of the last supper. Jesus gets the disciples into an intimate setting, washes their feet and feeds them with all sorts of good food, I'm sure. Then he says, "One of you is going to sell me up the river and I know how it is..." I imagine they all start looking around. I'm wondering how Judas managed to sit still and not look guilty. It seems like the exact plot of a good mystery.

Of course we know who the traitor was, but they didn't. Were there subtle signs along the way? I love to rewatch movies with surprise endings. I like to watch it again and see the subtle clues I missed. Do you think the disciples thought about that later? I bet they wondered if they could have seen his deceit before he acted so heinously.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 23. 2006

Matthew 21:1-27

Oh fickle people...

Jesus came into Jerusalem with style, didn't he. It doesn't take long for everything to change, does it.?

I wanted to make a few comments about the passage where Jesus rebukes the fig tree and discusses the importance of faith. My study Bile asks the question, why is it important to pray with faith. In thinking about it, I think one answer is that without faith we wouldn't bother to pray at all. If we believed no one was listening, why would we pray? I think it is also important to pray with faith so that when our faith is rewarded, it builds greater faith. Every time we see God move we are reminded again of the power and might of God.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 22, 2006

John 11:1-44

I studied this passage in depth when I wrote the curriculum for the Life Management class. There are so many applications in this passage, I'd need several days to blog it all. I'm just going to go with a few observations:

When we establish our priorities, not everyone will agree with them. The people didn't understand why Jesus hesitated and Lazarus died. I think the Bible is showing us clearly that Jesus priority was not the life of physical life of Lazarus, but the spiritual life of those who saw this miracle. His purpose was to draw people to His message and that could be communicated far clearer through Lazarus'' resurrection than from his recovery. I think it bears a mention that when God is doing something in our lives we might not understand. And when we make choices that we feel God is leading us to, not everyone around us might understand. Our bottom line should always be to ask "is this where God is leading?" and respond accordingly.

Secondly, Jesus never strayed from what he was there for. I imagine the thought of Lazarus' death and Mary and Martha's suffering were difficult for Him to face. They were friends, He cared deeply for them. But he wasn't there to ease their pain; He was there to change their lives. And that purpose remained in the forefront of His mind and His actions never wavered.

Friday, April 21, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 21, 2006

John 10:-42

There's a lot to draw from in this passage, but I'm only going to touch on one verse, which is one of my favorite verses in the Bible - John 10:10. "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I am come that they might have life and have it to the full."

We don't have to look around very long to see the things mentioned in the first part of the verse. Death, destruction and stealing are all around us. It does seem as if the world has gone mad lately, with so many children becoming violent and adults who act like children. Satan is alive and well on this earth and he's using a great many misguided or just plain evil people to wreak havoc on the world.

But Jesus doesn't stop the verse there. He goes on to tell us that He came to rescue us from that. And not only to give us life but to give us full life. I love that. It isn't just a better life - it's the best life! To me that is a life of joy and purpose, where people can live out their faith and passions in ways that make others lives better and their own lives more satisfying. It's a life where the kingdom of God is advanced by our actions and we actively seeks ways to glorify God. That's a full life - and Jesus came to make sure it was available to us.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 20, 2006

Luke 10:25-11:13

There is so much in this passage, I'm not sure where to start.

THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN - The notes in my study Bible compare this good Samaritian and his deeds to someone taking an active role against racism. Being that the Jews and Samaritans did not get along, this man's generosity was gracious. The question my Bible asks is, "How can I take an active stand again racism?" I think the answer to that one is found in this passage - treat people with kindness, one person at a time. This Samaritan didn't need to make speaches, change the law or reach out to groups or organizations. He just saw a need to one man and jumped in. That's where the battle for community begins - one deed, one person at a time.

THE STORY OF MARY AND MARTHA - I love this story and much has been writtend and spoken about it. The thing I always take away is the reminder to ask myself, "what is the most important thing?" I think of this quite a bit in talking to busy mom's who want to get involved in ministries and opportunities but have children to care for that take up much of their time. I encourage them to ask "what is the most important thing?" and do it. Much of the time, when the children are young, they are the most important thing. But when they've been cooped up with only the children for days and weeks of illness or haven't had a moment of time alone for months then the "most important thing" could mean an afternoon out with friends or joining a local book club or scrapbook group to get some adult conversation. The important thing to remember is that the answer to that question should come from God, not from a church leader, your sister or best friend. God alone knows your heart and your situation and He will help you determine "the most important thing" for right now.

HOW TO PRAY - This passage is often interpreted in a way that bothers me. The story of the man who goes to a friends door and asks for help is often interpreted to say that if we keep asking God, He'll give in to us to shut us up. That is so wrong. Once again, that puts the power in our hands - we can change His mind if we are bold and annoying. The passage goes on to say that if that works for friends HOW MUCH MORE will God hear our prayers when we come to Him with our requests. Since He is our loving father He will gladly hear us and answer us. It isn't an issue or persistance, it's an issue of bringing it to a loving father who longs to hear our concerns and prayers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 19, 2006

Luke 10:1-24

In this passage Jesus commissions 72 disciples to go out and perform miracles in His name. The thing that really jumped out at me was Jesus' reminder that they were not to focus on the power that they were given to do great things. They were to focus on what Christ had done for them. It was a reminder to them that they were in need of Christ's great power in their own lives as well. They were not above those they served.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 18, 2006

Mark 10:17-31

This passage deals with money and greed. It is a subject I think about a lot lately. Coming from someone who has consistantly been in debt since 1993, money is often a worry and a trial. Some of my problems were not greed. But lots of them were. As I look at the reality of being debt free in about 10 or 11 months for the first time in 14 years I realize I still struggle with giving God control of my finances. I need more growth in this area and I know that it's something I will have to give over to God time and time again.

Monday, April 17, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 17, 2006

Matthew 13:24-52

In this passage, I noticed that some parables were for the crowds and others for the disciples. And the application was given to the Disciples only. This reminds me of the "don't cast your pearls before swine" proverb that Millie used to shame the men in the musical "7 Brides for 7 Brothers." His message was for those who had the desire to hear, and it appeared He didn't waste much of His valuable, short time on earth catering to those who would never understand.

This is often the quandry in leadership. I think we spend way too much of our time on the people in the fringes. How often I hear, what can "WE DO" to draw them in. While the effort needs to be made, the decision is theirs. I get tired to always having to go to extreme lengths to draw people in who have no interest in coming. We think up these strategies to get more people involved when the people we are aiming the message at haven't got up off the pew to do anything but listen in 15 years.

The problem comes when our energy and resources are going after people who have said "no" for years and those who are getting out there and living for God are getting the time we have left. That's wrong and was not the model that Jesus gave us. Those people who have said "no" to God time after time after time will answer for that one day, and my energies need to be devoted to those who say "yes." While I don't plan to ignore the "no's" I do feel a responsiblity to make sure that the bulk of my times goes to equip and motivate and challenge those who choose to say "yes." This is probably not going to make people happy, but I can deal with it...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 16, 2006

Matthew 18:15-35

The first thing I thought of when I read this passage was my high-school friend Missy. She had a habit of tattling whenever someone did something to her or did something she was offended by. I went to a small, private Christian school and my Mom was the administrator. My mother grew tired of always having to referee small grievances we should have been able to work out ourselves. So every time Missy (or anyone else for that matter) would come to her with something she's reply, "Matthew 18. Look it up. Matthew 18." It was her way of telling us to go to each other and deal with the problem. Then forgive and move on. I can remember getting to the point whenever someone would do something to irritate someone else, we'd all yell out "Matthew 18." That brings me back to my childhood in a way I'd rather not thing about...

So on to the current application. This passage tells me how to treat those around me:

- Give them the benefit of the doubt and go to them before I spread an issue around.
- Do all I can to reconcile the relationship.
- Forgive. Always. Remember all that Christ forgave me from and extend that grace to others.
- Be patient with them.
- Join together with them in prayer.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 15, 2006

Mark 9:14-32

There are two things that jumped out at me as I read this passage. The first one was the disciples reaction to all they had seen and Jesus' words to them after he healed the boy of the evil spirits. The Bible tells us that they didn't understand what Jesus was talking about, but they were afraid to ask him. They must have been card-carrying members of the Jessica-Robinson-School-of-Avoidance. If it sounds bad, let's not clarify, okay? I seem to do that more as I get older.

Secondly, I noticed the boys father in what is probably one of the better known verses in the Bible, "Lord I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

I love that answer. I think it is such an encouragement to us to see God work in this young child's life after that comment by his father. So many times we hear the comment, "well, I guess I just didn't have enough faith" to describe why something didn't work out the way we wanted. But what exactly are we saying? That puts the power of the situation upon us and it's never about what WE can do.

As I read that man's cry I am reminded that I can never understand enough about God to truly have faith in all things. I'm more likely to belive that God can than that God will. My faith only goes so far at times and yet I want to belive. This man's faith was strong, but even he knew there were areas for more faith. I often thing of it as saying, "I want to belive. Help me get there in this situation." And how God must love us for the honesty to say that and hold nothing back from Him.

Friday, April 14, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 14, 2006

Matthew 16:13-17:13

In this passage we see Jesus acting as a leader. Whole volumes have been written about Jesus' leadership style and no where is it more evident than it is in this passage. Here is how He modeled leadership:

DRAW ASIDE PEOPLE TO LEAD the information He shared with the disciples was for their ears only. His true identity they were to keep to themselves at this time. The transfigured wasn't for everyone to see. He pulled aside those from the crowd who were ready to take things to a higher level and He spent the majority of His time with them.

COMMUNICATE WELL He told the disciples what was coming. Even though they didn't understand Him much of the time, they would remember His words later and things would be clearer to them. He was giving them all they'd need to carry on His absence as one day they'd be called to do so.

SHARE THE VISION He gave them a clear vision of what was coming. He gave them in stories, talks and object lessons a clear view of all that would happen in the days to come. As things played out in the weeks and months ahead, they would be prepared for the events that would shake the world. While they didn't always get what He was trying to say, He passed along His vision for the future.

ENCOURAGE THEM The transfiguration was a time of great excitement and awe. This was a time away from their normal experiences that allowed them to see things beyond the everyday. The encouragement that comes from stepping away from the mundane into the awesome is necessary and needful in the life of those we lead. They need to glimpse something beyond themselves to keep the work going strong and their spirits encouraged.

GET THEIR INPUT Jesus frequently used questions to make His disciples part of the process. I find it interesting that they would never change His plans, but nonetheless were a part of the "talking-it-out" process. Jesus had a plan to follow and none of them were going to alter it, but giving them a chance to dialog allowed them to become a part of the work and helped them see how they fit into the process.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Todays Useful Link - Chocolate

In the mood for some chocolate? Try a new chocolate recipe here!

List THREE - Brand Names

List the name brand products you use and swear by:

•• Bare Esscentials Make-up (It is a modern miracle and I can't say
enough how much I love using it!)
• Listerine Mouthwash (Nothing else makes my mouth so tingly AND I
can swish it around for 30 seconds like you're supposed to. Can you?)
•• Hellmanns Mayonnaiseise (I hate mayonnaiseise, but I do use a slight bit in
tuna or chicken salad. If I'm going to eat it, it's gotta be the best.)
•• Aquafina Water
•• Dasani Lemon-flavored Water
• Pantene Pro-V Shampoo (The generic version doesn't rinse out as nicely)

There's probably a lot I didn't think of as I tend to be somewhat of a name brand girl. I don't mind generics, per se, but you really do get what you pay for in most cases. Sometimes it doesn't matter, but there's too much of my Grandmother Haines in me to settle for poor quality or taste when spending money.

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 13, 2006

John 6:1-15

When I read this passage my mind veered off into odd territory because I kinda felt that Andrew was being a bit sarcastic here. I KNOW I am reading a lot into this passage, but it just struck me as funny. Here Jesus is, trying to get away from the crowd and they follow him in droves. His disciples are sitting around and Jesus begins to discuss the logistics of feeding this great crowd. Then along comes a little boy with his sack lunch. I imagine him sitting down where the disciples can see him and opening his pack to take out whatever his mom had packed that morning. Then Andrew sees the meal and says something like, "Well, there's a kid with a happy meal, but that's not gonna get us far, is it?"

Yes, I know it didn't go down just like that, but that's what I thought of. Anyone who's ever had a happy meal from McDonalds knows that while that may actually be the correct serving size for an adult grease-laden meal, there are never enough fries in that tiny box to satisfy. So since loaves and fishes don't exactly sound exciting to me, I can imagine Jesus passing out cheeseburgers and french fries from the happy meal box that never runs out. Talk about exciting!

On a more serious note, I often read this story and wonder what happened to that little boy. Did his mom think he was lying when he went home and told the story? Did he run off to play, not realizing what had happened? Were his parents with him? If so, why didn't they have a lunch to share? And if they brought lunches, why were they the only ones? Ahhhh!!! The questions never end.

Is It Lunchtime Yet?

Is anyone hungry? Check this out!

The hefty price tag translates to around $148 in American moola and for that price, it better taste good. If you spring for one, let me know how it tastes, okay?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 12, 2006

Mark 5:1-43

I have something in common with the man who was possessed of the demons in this passage in Mark. No, I don't believe I'm possessed although that might answer a few questions some of you have about me! :-)

In previous readings of this passage and in sermons on this story, I remember hearing the miraculous way God restored this man and he was quiet a picture of the cleansing and healing power of Jesus. This passage talks about how he was sitting down and speaking calmly and coherently and that everyone was amazed. But the story seems to end there in my head. He was healed of his horrible and situation and they all lived happily ever after.

But it didn't end there. He wanted to follow Jesus. In his gratitude and excitement over his changed life he wanted to become a disciple and serve at the feet of Jesus. That is a good idea and a noble goal, but Jesus discouraged this idea and sent him home. At first reading I kinda thought, how disappointing for him, but the more I thought the more clear the story became and I realized this man and I had something in common - we both overcomplicate things.

You see, Jesus didn't save the man to benefit himself. He saved him to benefit God's kingdom and the man would have far more impact back with the people who "knew him when" than he would following Jesus from town to town. He was overcomplicating the idea of service and sacrifice. He was making it harder than it needed to be and as a result, less effective.

I do this at times. Especially in the area of my quiet time. I tend to add too much into it so that I don't even bother because I don't have two hours of time. And the whole time, I'm sure God is saying "Hey, just sit down and chat with me for a minute. Stop making everything so hard." I often box myself in with unrealistic expectations when the truth is that it isn't necessary and often doesn't work in the long run.

Another application that came to me later was a reminder of one of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis that I think fits into this story so well. He said "The world does not need more Christian writers - it needs more good writers and composers who are Christians." I think this sums up in a nutshell what often bothers me about the "sectioning" of Christianity. We think if someone doesn't sing lyrics that say the word "God" or "Jesus" every 7.1 words they aren't enhancing the kingdom of God. But I wonder sometimes if the people who sing about love and life and getting out of bed in the morning with excitement and joy, who show a Godly heart and Christ-like actions - in a world of musicians and singers who live for themselves - don't show a stronger picture of a changed person.

Just like the demon-possessed man would have more impact if he interacted with the world instead of locking himself up in a group of disciples, we would have more impact if we would look beyond "Christian" labeled things and got out into the world we are called to save. I have such a respect for Christians in the arts and entertainment world who are creating quality, God-honoring works of art that proclaim the message of Christ in a tangible way that don't need to have it labeled "Christian" to get the message across. We need more of that, but with the church's current habits of bashing those who try, it's not likely to keep growing on a larger scale. This is sad, because I think we're overlooking the message of this story in Scripture to our detriment.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 11, 2006

Luke 8:22-25 and Mark 6:45-52

These passages focused on the power of Jesus and were exciting stories to read. Something in the story of Jarius's daughter really leaped out at me. When Jarius hears the word that his daughter is dead and it is no use bothering Jesus any longer, Jesus replies that she isn't dead, she's just sleeping.

The Bible then goes on to say that the people assembled there laughed at Him. They laughed at him because they knew better. Or so they thought. That was actually a pretty convicting passage. Okay, I don't actually laugh at the commands and promises of Christ, but I do find myself thinking I know better. My tiny little mind cannot grasp the enormity of Jesus and so often I tend to think I know more than God. His ways don't make sense to my mind so He must be wrong, right? Yet life teaches me time and time again that I don't know everything, just as the people in this passage learned the same thing. I just wish I could learn it once and remember it often instead of the endless cycle of learning and forgetting I am often mired in.

Today's Useful Link - Best Hoaxes Ever

Today's link isn't exactly what I'd call useful, more like fun and humurous. This news article details the ten best April Fool's day hoaxes in modern history. Some are pretty funny and it's amazing how many people fall for stuff like this every yeard.

Go forth, read and laugh...

April Fool's Hoaxes

Movie Review - Walk The Line

One Sentence Summary: A well-acted account of the life and love of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

My Thoughts: Watch this movie for Reese Witherspoon if for no other reason. She is amazing and does a powerful job in this role. The Oscar she won was for good reason.

Joaquin Phoenix also did a great job as Johnny Cash, especially with his voice and singing. I thought they both did well at the singing as was impressed with how natural they appeared while singing. I had heard that Reese Witherspoon hadn't wanted to do the singing herself, but she did well in my opinion.

The story was interesting and very gripping in places and it moved quickly through some periods of time. It was really a character drama and seemed to steer clear of the usual music-star biopic territory which made it seem fresh and interesting.

One thing that stood out to me while I was watching it was how her family did more to help him than his own did. His own parents seemed to want him to fail and wanted him unhappy. But her family came through for him in a way no one else did. I look at his life a child and then when he became famous and I thought that no one protected him, or looked after him. He was lonely on the road and unhappy at times and his family only put more pressure on him. It wasn't until June and her parents showed up and wouldn't leave that someone was really there for him.

I also liked the fact that he loved music as a child. Often it's easy to think that a child's likes and dislikes will change and many times they do. But some things are just ingrained in who a person is and they never change. Their passions for art, music, etc. will define who they become. Others never seem to know what they want to do with their lives. It's kinda funny when you think about it. What makes some people have such strong desires to become a certain thing or type of person?

Anyway, this movie is excellent and I recommend you watch it if you get a chance. Even if you're not a country music fan or a Johnny Cash fan you'll enjoy this movie.

Monday, April 10, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 10, 2006

Matthew 13:1-52

The parable of the seed and the different types of ground is one I remember hearing in Sunday School as a child. I can even remember the flanelgraph that my teacher used. I can still see the coffee stain at the top of the flannel board. Why there was a coffee stain there I have no idea.

To be honest, as I read this passage no big ideas came to mind other than the rememberences of Sunday School and Junior Church. Parables were a big part of the Bible lessons I learned as a child. One of my Junior church teachers used to make us act them out in certain ways as he'd tell the story. When the woman was looking for her lost coin we all had to turn our pockets inside out and look under our chair. When we learned the story of the seed and the hard ground we had to pretent to plant a garden and care for it by pretend watering it and pretend harvesting the crop.

He also made us do other goofy things like dip down in the river seven times like Naaman did in II Kings and hold each other's arms up during the whole lesson like Aaron did for Moses. The more I think about it, his teaching method was something similar to Jesus' as He taught the parables. Give them something easy and fun to understand. Stories are more fun that preaching and you're more likely to remember. And to my Junior church teacher, acting better than just hearing because it's more fun and we're more likely to remember. And apparently, he was right!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Movie Review - The Constant Gardener

One sentance summary: A Britist diplomat searches for answers after the death of his wife in Africa.

My thoughts: This was a good movie, but will require a second watching to get all the nuances of the script. The jumping around in the time-line is at times hard to follow and the subject matter is confusing at times. But the story was compelling and the suspense was well-done. I think the principles (Ralph Fiennes and Rachael Weiss) are awesome actors and they did a great job with a very wordy, intelligent script. The mystery is reasonably easy to figure out and we know pretty early on what is going on. What we don't know is who is ultimately calling the shots in the sitatution and who is responsble for ordering the woman's death.

One bone I'd like to pick with the marketers of this movie - she was not pregnant when she was killed. They gave that impression when they promoted this movie when it was in theaters. "When a diplomat's pregnant wife is killed..." started a good many reviews and promotional previews. That is misleading and is not true. I'd also warn you not to attemp making dinner, sewing or talking on the phone while this movie is on. You'll never figure out who the good guys and who the bad guys are without paying close attention as the movie goes on.

I'd have felt a bit more like giving a more "great" instead of "good" review if it had ended better. A somewhat unsatisfying ending that doesn't really show if the bad guys got their just punishment wasn't good enought to make it a "great" movie. But if you like intelligent suspense movies, this one is a good one and the principle actors are worth the rental price in any movie they appear in.

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 9, 2006

Matthew 12:1-45

This parable focuses on the Pharisees and boy, were they a bunch. Legalistic doesn't begin to describe them. I often think of the "Dementors" from the Harry Potter books when I read about the Pharisess as I think they are similar in many ways - sucking joy and life from everything. The minute the Pharisees show up, somebody is going to hear what they are doing wrong! And of course in our story, it was almost always Jesus.

These people were evil on the inside and pious on the outside. The sad thing was that the way they treated people meant that they were very little good for anyone. They might have had a respection position - but they were't people deserving of that respect.

Jesus also cautions us in this passage that our fruit will mark us to the world. We will be known by what we reproduce.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 8, 2006

Matthew 8:1-9:8

This passage tells us that Jesus rules over:
• disease
• death
• physical ailments
• nature
• demons
• animals

One other thing that stood out to me in this passage is how Jesus often goes off topic. Like in the story of the man who came to him because his servant was suffering. He asked Jesus for healing and Jesus does heal the servant. But before He does, He begins talking about faith, feasts, the Kingdom of Heaven, darkness and wailing and knashing of teeth. I wonder if anyone really understood what He was talking about. It seems off-topic to the conversation at hand. Of course, we know that it wasn't, but I wonder what the crowd was thinking as He veered away from the situation at hand.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Useful Link of the Day - Folded Money

Here's your chance to show off your origami skills for the next birthday gift. Our link for the day is instruction on how to fold money in the shape of a shirt. So get folding, and don't just give a five-dollar bill, you cheapskate!

Dollar Bill T-Shirt

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 7, 2006

Matthew 5:1-7:29

Salt & Light - This is one of those things that we hear in church all the time. But I wonder how much we really think about what that means. I'm going to list what salt and light does for the world and we can take away what we need to do for the world. And I'm sure I'll miss something so feel free to add your thoughts in the comments. (Side note, The lead singer of Jars of Clay has the Chinese symbols for "salt" and "light" tattooed on his arm. Just some free information for ya, there.)

Salt: salt adds flavor, salt preserves things, salt wakes up the senses, salt is necessary for our health. (This is true, with all the fuss we hear about cutting back on salt intake, we don't hear the truth that it is important to have some salt in our diet. I've read articles about insomniacs curing their sleep problems by adding some salt back into their diet.)

Lesson: As Christians, we should add flavor to life, preserve the things that matter, wake up the world to a better life and remember we are necessary to the world.

I think that we are failing miserably at adding flavor to the world. In fact, I'm guessing many people would say the Christians they know are excellent at taking away everything fun and flavorful. We often appear to be against everything. What can we do to change into a people who add flavor to life?

Light: gives direction, dispels the darkness, illuminates flaws (shine some light on the problem!)

Lesson from Light: As Christians, we should give direction, bring people out of darkness and point out things that need fixing.

How are we doing on these?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 6, 2006

John 3:104:42

One thing that jumped out at me from this passage was the story of the woman at the well. It's so familiar to many of us, yet it's one of my favorite stories in the gospels. I think Jesus treats this woman with such grace and love and I always enjoy reading their conversation at the well.

When Jesus tells her of the living water she replies that she would like to have that water so that she didn't have to come to the well anymore. I think that is a telling Carrying water was hard work and this woman was probably doing it in the afternoon, during the heat of the day. The other women would have been there before the sun was fully up, but this woman was probably not welcome to be there with them. Her status as a "fallen woman" surely meant that she avoided the other women or at the very least, was uncomfortable around them. The idea that she wouldn't need to go to the well again was attractive to her and she was eager to learn more.

Of course, we know that Jesus was talking about something altogether different than what she first thought. But in a similar way, our journey to Christ often mirrors her thoughts. We come to Jesus because we recognize we are sinners. We have done things that make us uncomfortable around others. We have things in our past that limit us, control us, and make us cowards. We come to God to have him fix those things and he does so much more. Some come to Him with a broken marriage and He makes every relationship better. Some come to him with a job crisis and He solves every crisis. No matter what our issue when we come to Him, He takes over every part and makes it new.

One other thing I noticed was the response of the people she ran and told about Jesus. They remarked that they had heard what she said, but now that they saw Jesus they believed what she said. There is more to telling others about Jesus than just words. They need to "see" Him in whatever form we can convey. Whether through our loving hands and kind words or our gifts of compassion and mercy we need to ensure that those we share Christ with can "see" Him as well as hear about Him

Today's Useful Link - Such a Hassle!

Have you recently tried to start drinking more water or visit the gym more often? Are you trying to call your mom more often or send thinking of you cards more frequently? Whatever it is you are trying to remember "Hassle Me" can help. Just go the the site and enter what you want to be reminded of. Then type in a rough estimate of how you often you want to be reminded. Ever few days, you'll receive a reminder email at random intervals that hassle's you to get moving! They don't sell your email address and they won't send you any other emails. So give it a try and see if your computer can do something nice for you for a change!

Hassle Me!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Arial Typeface: He's a cheap, ugly imitation.

I found this article today while searching for a font online that made me laugh. I doubt anybody but a designer would find it as interesting as I did, but I was fascinated. It details the history of the font "Arial" and why no one but the most inexperienced of designers would ever use it. As I read the article, I found myself wondering, have I ever used it? The answer is yes, if someone asks for it or if it is something that matches a logo or previous layout. I tend to choose different fonts than the standard, though, and I download a good many fonts so I have lots of variety. I was glad to realize I've been doing it right all along...

Todays Useful Link - Out Of Print Music

If you are looking for a great gift for a parent or grandparent, check out Memory Lane Records for the gift of music. Featuring old records, cassess and Cd's that are out of print, there is no end to the music of the past that can delight listeners in the present. There is a handy search function, and their database seems pretty big. I didn't find eith of the the names I put in, but I'd imagine that their inventory changes over pretty quickly so I'll keep trying back.

Memory Lane Records

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 5, 2006

Luke 5:1-11; 6:12-16 and John 1:35-51

The first thing I noticed in this passage was something I never picked up on before until a few weeks ago when I read it. When Jesus caused the miraculous catch of fish, the disciples left it all on shore! Luke tells us they left it all and followed him.

One thing that always bugged me about that passage was the fact that Peter called Jesus "Master." It seems a position of respect that Jesus hadn't seemed to earn yet, in their eyes. He appeared a simple man, a son of a carpenter. It wasn't like he looked powerful or wealthy. Yet Peter called him "Master." I think the answer to that might be in the John passage. That passage talks about Andrew meeting Jesus and bringing his brother along to meet him. The passage in John doesn't say that Peter followed Jesus at that time and became a disciple. It appears to me that Peter met Jesus and then went back to his job. Then when Jesus met with him, James and John along the beach and they caught the large catch of fish, Peter was familiar with him and knew from Andrew that he was someone special. I could be reading too much into it, but it makes sense to me and explains a question I have always wondered about.

I also noticed that Nathaniel seemed somewhat skeptical at first. I like that Jesus was ready for that. One of the things about Jesus that always comforts me is how he seems to treat each person with the care they need. Some need proof, some need affection and compassion, and some need "tell it like it is" talk. He interacts with each person in the manner that reaches them. I wish I had more of that talent! I've also often wondered what Nathaniel was doing under the fig tree. Jesus said that he saw him there and Nathaniel doesn't go into anything else about it, but I wondered what was going on there that Jesus called him honest because he saw him under the fig tree. I put that down on my list of things to research at a later time.

Lastly, I like how Jesus spent the night before selecting his disciples in prayer. What a lesson that should be to us. Before we have to make difficult or life-changing decision we should spend much time getting God's wisdom and blessing before we proceed.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Today's Useful Link - Enhance Your Next Dinner Party

Today I feature a website with instructions on how to fold decorative napkins. If you have a dinner party coming up, here's a great resouce to add a little something extra to your table decorations. Just click the photo of the design you'd like to learn and the instructions will open.

Napkin Folding

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 4, 2006

Matthew 4:1-17 and Luke 4:14-44

I actually read the Luke passage from verse 1 instead of 14 as I wanted to read another telling of the temptation of Jesus. One thing I noticed was that it tells us Jesus was tempted for 40 days. We have the three questions that Satan tempts Jesus with recorded in the gospels, but if He was tempted for 40 days there must have been more than that. I wonder if there were more temptations or if he just repeated the same ones over and over using different language, trying to wear down His resistance? I think about that because I know Satan uses the same few things over and over to tempt me and the reason he often succeeds is that he couches them in different phrases and promptings - but underneath they really are the same thing.

I like that the passages tell us that Jesus felt hungry. In fact, both of them say that "after forty days" he felt hungry. My first response was, "you think?". It is nice to be reminded that Jesus really did experience the normal annoyances of life while He was on this earth.

Another thing that I hear a great deal when people preach about this passage is the idea that Jesus used Scripture to defeat Satan. I mentioned in the Quiet Time class on Saturday the importance of memorizing Scripture and this passage really backs that up. Using the Words of God to resist Satan is effective and powerful.

One last thing I think is really important in the later verses of the Luke passage is the idea of developing credibility. That is one that I have always felt is so important in leading people. Jesus was an amazing leader and this is one of the reasons. His constant silencing of the evil spirits at the beginning of Him ministry show someone who understands the importance of developing credibility before people will believe you. You see, He knows human nature. And while His way of thinking is very foreign to us, our way of thinking is clearly understood by Him. He knows that people won't follow someone who hasn't proved themselves. So the evil spirits confessing that He is the son of God at the beginning of His ministry need to be silenced until He begins to show it by action and built up His reputation.

We see that reputation beginning in the Luke passage, but it is only the start. I think this ties into Jesus' sadness when those closest to Him don't understand His purpose as He reaches the end of His life. He had established who He was by then, but they still didn't see it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

List Number TWO

Today's list is:

List all the idiotic things you have done for love.

I honestly haven't been too wacky in the art of looking for love, but I have a few.

I developed a love of roller skating (I'm the least unathletic person I know!)
I faked a mad passion for Hockey (although I did learn to love it)

Both of these instances taught me early on that most guy's fascination with sports made them boring. :-) Not that I think that way now, but that was my impression as a teenager.

Since my high school year's I gave up jumping through idiotic hoops to find love. I think when it's work, it's just not worth it. Of course that's only my opinion...

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 3

Matthew 3:1-17

This passage shows the value of confession and repentance. I think it's interesting to notice that John the Baptist tells people to prepare for the coming of Jesus. They were to clean up their lives to get ready for the arrival of Christ. John the Baptist is the lone voice in that time that conveys the message of repentance.

I was thinking about this later this morning and was contrasting John to the religious leaders of the day. They were all about "doing the right things" telling people they had to live up to a certain code. John makes it more personal and gets across the message that we need to clean up. The focus goes off of what we do and moves to who we are, instead.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 2, 2006

Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 2:1-20

For today's post I have decided to describe each main character's actions in two words. Here we go...

Joseph - Compassionate and Obedient
Herod - Deceitful and Ruthless
Magi - Obedient and Determined
Mary - Resourceful and Introspective
shepherds - Excited and Joyful

List Number ONE

My mom purchased a book a few years ago that I have recently commandeered for myself. It is called "List Yourself" and is a handy little journal that gives you topics of things to compile lists about. I was thinking this would be fun to blog about and it will give me a topic that maybe you can participate in. If you'd like to add your own list to the list topic each time in the comments section, that's be cool!

List Number ONE is: List Your Sunday Rituals

Sunday School
Being late for Church
Taking a nap
Catching up on shows I've TIVO'd
Planning the week ahead
Reading the Best Buy, Target, Office Depot and Michaels Crafts flyers in the Sunday Paper.

How about you? What are your Sunday rituals?

What A Weekend!

Well the Flourish Cafe is over and it was one of the highlights of the last few months. It seemed that everyone had a great time and I can't wait until the next one. I had a few problems with the music as the software I used to make the tracks was pretty stinky. I need to either buy decent hardware or just sing with the vocals on the cds.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was the sing-a-long time when I made everyone sing with some medley's of music from the sixties. The rest of the evening was spent trying to remember who recorded the originals and what else they sang and what was your first 45 record you bought, etc. Music is such a level playing field. It gives us all the chance to connect in a way that is comforting and relaxing. Choosing the music is my favorite part of the cafe process.

The cafe was on Friday night. On Saturday morning we had the Quiet Time kick-off class. We had 13 women attend and we all had fun getting back to the basics of spending time with God. We gave out lots of resources to the women who attended and so far, the feedback I've received has been positive. I plan to offer a more intensive class later this year that goes through the process of Bible Study in a more in-depth way. And I'll offer the basics class once a year for awhile.

Last night I went to see Grease at the Way Off Broadway dinner theater. It was a fun show. Of course the highlight of the night was the Cream of Crab soup and the fun conversations. We laughed a lot and had a good evening.

Today I'm exhausted...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

30 Days of Quiet Time - April 1, 2006

During the month of April, Flourish is emphasizing personal quiet time with God. We are asking women to spend 30 consistent days having a quiet time. We had a fun kick-off class today and we handed out a 30-day reading plan that follows the life of Christ. Throughout the next 30 days I will be posting my thoughts as we begin to read. I hope that if you are following along, you will add your thoughts to the comments section. Just click on the word below each post that says "COMMENTS" and it will take you to a form that will let you add your thoughts. You can create a login and have a user name or you can just use the anonymous user name and post that way. If you do use the anonymous posting make sure you type your name in the comments section so we know who you are.

Today's passage dealt with the prophesy that Jesus would come to earth.

Isaiah 7:14, 9:1-9; Luke 1:26-38

In the Isaiah passage I noticed that it tells us exactly what Jesus will bring with Him when He comes - light, increased joy, a feeling of wealth, freedom from oppression and everything will be bigger and more meaningful. There will also "be no more gloom for those in distress." (Isaiah 9:1) If we look at the familiar passage in Isaiah 9 we find out that Jesus will counsel us, rule us, love us and bring peace to us.

"Be it unto me according to your word..." What a surrendered heart it takes to pray that prayer. If I'm honest, I worry about praying that one some times. I like to keep a bit of control of my own destiny and surrender is a hard one for me at times. And yes, I know the control isn't really mine, I just like to keep the illusion that it is! This attitude of wanting for my life exactly what God wants is one that I desire to have, but will probably struggle against off and on my whole life.

When I think about this prayer of Mary's, I think it is in some ways remarkable that one so young could be that surrendered. She has her whole life ahead of her and she is willing to set it all aside so that God can have His way before she's really had a chance to make her own decisions. Yet on the other hand, in her culture she probably didn't have much of a chance to make her own decisions. I'm sure her father and then her husband made most of them. Surrender was probably a way of life for her. Maybe it's harder in our society today since we all seem to assume we are masters of our own destiny.
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