Tuesday, December 30, 2008

scripture, story, forgiveness

We can make keen observations as we read the scriptures - particularly things about human nature that we still see in ourselves but I'd like to think that, even more important, the holy scriptures give us opportunity to search out the story of God - who He is, what He's done. What God chooses to reveal to us is up to Him. It's our job to keep looking. Yes, His word is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword but He keeps telling stories. Jesus told stories. We're encouraged to keep telling new generations these stories about the things God has done, encouraging and teaching them to keep God's commands that Jesus summed up in two.

I wonder if, because it's God's story and because we come to His stories through religious institutions with our scientific thinking, I wonder if it causes us to sterilize His stories. We don't get all the gory/graphic details that come from the media today. (Apparently we don't need them yet the details the authors chose to keep and not keep must be important to God.) I think we forget that all these things happened to real people, in real life, lives that weren't clean and sterile. That understanding should pull us up, not down. It means God was there and He still is . . . here in places that aren't clean and sterile.

I think we forget the "Living" part of our Living God - God of the Living, not God of the dead. Living gets messy. Babies are messy. Children are messy. "Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest." (Prov 14:4 NIV) Keeping oxen is a messy job.

God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) existed before He started telling us His story. (Should the time ever come when there is no one left to tell His story, He will still be.) His stories tell us of His power and His glory. If you ever want a word study at Christmastime - try "glory." Watch and see how often references to His glory occur beside His willingness to stoop down to the lowly.

God's story tells of our Living God becoming a man (hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, feeling, understanding, learning about his world) a very human natural birth in a barn, being baptized in a gross muddy river, walking sandled in a dusty Palestinian marketplace. It tells of his spending time in a prison, dying the death of a criminal and a traitor. And yes, He was God - resurrected from the dead but do you think He lived a sterile life? Is that possible? Do you think if He hung out with tax collectors and sinners He never heard swearing? And if they called Him friend and wanted to be around Him, do you think He spent all that time correcting them? Without sin but not sterile. He came to reconcile these men and women created in God's image back to God -his father - the God He knew.

We think of Jesus (and Father God) loving people who could or would never love Him back, forgiving people who could or would never give back to Him. He forgave and people were healed.

Perhaps we underestimate the power of forgiveness. I wonder if part of His anger in the temple was that the religous people just didn't get it. He was God and representing God but He was also a man.

Jesus came - God/Man. Does God alone have the power to forgive? Is that what Jesus came to show us? Or did He come to show us the power of forgiveness even if the person forgiving is just a man? Maybe both? Because He's God or because forgiveness brings healing? I don't know. I've always thought of Jesus as coming to set us straight, which He did, but when you think of Him as man, yet "one with the Father," it seems the stories of God and man can't help but get hopelessly tangled together. A little messy. Some people hate "messy."

God never stops being God. Jesus is still God, still the Christ - God's annointed. He was also a man - baptized in the Holy Spirit. We are men and women, but created in God's image - He left His Holy Spirit with us. Some things are clean and neat, everything in it's place. Some things aren't. Life is life. Jesus said, "I am the Life." We're encouraged to continue telling God's story, to keep His commandments, to grow to know the scriptures, Christ Jesus- the Living Word, and the power of God. No promises it will all stay clean and neat - just that He'll be there.

Monday, December 29, 2008

scripture 1

Technical difficulties here but we'll try again. If this looks like a normal/bold cacaphony of color...sorry

As the people of God we have many different styles and verbally/visually/kinesthetically live and wield the scriptures with varying degrees of wisdom, in varying circumstances.

After I posted the last post, I searched "scripture" as a word search initially looking for the passage from 2 Timothy 3:14-17 [N IV] but of course finding myself in the middle of an interesting forest. I thought I'd been there before but maybe not. Here's that passage broken down alittle so you can ponder the parts:

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of,

because you know those from whom you learned it,

and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures,

which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for




and training in righteousness,

so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

I used to read this passage thinking in terms of verses. These days, I need to read it again and include the sacred scripture dimension of "story".

Every time I search the scriptures, I inevitably discover something I've not seen before. When I did my word study this time, Matt. 22:28-32 caught my eye. Religious leaders are asking Jesus an application question about scripture. They question Him to understand an issue they may have already assumed they had a corner on. But Jesus called them "in error." and in the same breath Jesus says, "because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. . ."

For whatever reason, I don't recall seeing that before.

Weren't these men religious leaders? Teachers of the law?

Apparently, for Jesus, knowing the scriptures and the power of God go together. They're both important.

Jesus, of course, goes on to dazzle them with His explanation and He reveals something about His Father to them in the process. Pushing past the tall weeds of the issues of resurrection and being married or not in heaven He helped them see the revelation they really needed to see - that God isn't the God of the dead, He's God of the living.

Anyway, the error of not knowing the scriptures and the power of God (together) or the error that comes from not knowing the scriptures and the power of God got me thinking...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Walking Words

If Jesus is the Living Word - God's walking, living word for all to read...

. . .and we are His Body (what people see of God, His Son and Holy Spirit) . . .

. . . aren't we (His) walking words, living stories, living books, too?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Interesting project

My daughter was collecting supplies to do this with the two little boys she babysits for. A fun project for older kids from someone else's blog. You should make one ahead of time and read her comments about what NOT to do. The jars can run $3+ a piece around here unless everyone saves baby food jars. You can also cut costs if everyone brings in a little toy to glue inside or share the cost of a bag of cheap plastic creatures or collect tiny manger scene ornaments from a flea market that you can disassemble and glue inside. The aquarium sealer takes 24 hours to season so it may be a two-three week project. But it looks like fun, doesn't it?

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Child in the Bible

I've officially finished the intro and chapter 1 of The Child in the Bible edited by Marcia J. Bunge. (William B Eerdmans Publ Co. 2008) It's one of those books where the footnotes fill up more page than the text (not on every page) but don't let that scare you.

Thought I'd start a typical question-filled chapter by chapter post after Christmas, question asking being much safer than claiming to have answers. But now I'm not sure. The authors ask their own tough questions and make rather astute observations . . . still pondering . . . I need to go back and re-read the chapter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The connection?

So now what?

Ever think about the stark profound contrast - a Father God who is Spirit and Truth sending his only son into such profound earthiness? Just words unless you tie it to something concrete.

The point of concrete is that things like stable, hay, sheep, birth mean something different to people who have real life sensory experience tied to the words. I'd like to say that there's more for God to use with the story. Not that he can't act independently but hey. He's the one who sent his son to be born there - I mean here - I mean . . . .He didn't have to do that.

Does that make sense? For centuries the experiences and memories tied to those concrete words - barn, hay, sheep, birth weren't so foreign to the general public.

Some churches have live creche scenes. Do you take field trips to working farms? Sheep farms? Busy season, I know. Not a time for field trips.... Not one more thing to think about . . .

Not to downplay the Giving of the Gift. To me it makes the giving of the gift that much more profound: The Master of the Universe leaving his son as a infant in the hands of a teenage mother with an uneducated poor skilled laborer father in someone else's barn. And their first visitors were smelly dirt poor sheep farmers and foreign diplomats from the Middle East, lol! Oh. And the leading government official was out to kill him . . . but that comes later . . . the plot thickens ... and it's Christmas and He's still God and we still worship Him!

It's not being so focused on the barn that we downplay His Gift or the fact that He's God. It's soaking in the fact that he left His most precious gift in a barn and He is God.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Concrete (Sensory) Christmas

Here we go! As you read these questions add some: What did you see, hear, taste, touch, smell? What were you thinking? How did it make you feel?

Anybody ever been in a working barn? And you inhaled, of course.

Anybody ever deliver a baby in a barn? You can include baby animals if you want.

Anybody ever spend the night in a barn? Ever sleep in the hay? Did you sleep in the hay barn or with the animals? Any creatures show up after dark that weren't there in the daytime?

Anybody ever eat a meal in a working barn? Ever drink water?

Ever wake up in a barn and find that you had strangers come to visit? Shepherds that probably smelled worse than the barn? Rich folk who probably never even stepped in a mud puddle? Where did they sit? Did they sit? Did they sit close to you? to the animals? What did you feed them? How did you extend hospitality?

Ever wake up in the middle of a field of sheep in the middle of the night and see the sky lit up and hear a choir of voices singing? I promise, I won't tell so we can keep you out of a mental institution.

Anybody ever ride a donkey? Ever ride it from here to there for 3-4 days? Ever walk it? Were you 9 months pregnant? First baby?

Anybody ever on a trip and it was past midnight and there were no vacancies for an hour each way because of some national conference? Ever have to find a place that would also accomodate your animals? And you probably didn't even have much money for a room as it was but the cheap rooms were definately gone.

Maybe there are kids or grown ups that have memories somehow related to the answers to these questions. Pick their brain and see if maybe some of the elements in the story come to life.

Track back to a year or two ago and read the post about disappointment, too if you want.

Friday, December 05, 2008


My 23 year old daughter is living home while she finishes grad school. She has the tree and decorations up and the house is still clean from Thanksgiving. This NEVER happens. Everyone needs an Amy!

We did a lot of handmade gifts, ornaments, and food for Christmas when the kids were growing up. She thought it would be fun to make tissue paper snow flakes for some of our multi-paned windows together this afternoon.

I pulled out some abandoned white tissue paper* this morning and I'd try a few. I was going to mass produce (cut multiple snowflakes at a time) but then I realized that every snowflake God creates is unique and different from the one before.

I was thinking fast, not pain-stakingly detailed! Not sure I'm that creative - to make 34 totally different snowflakes. I thought, "God is really is amazing!"

Made me think about God's time and how He chooses to spend it. Made me think about His creativity and about how very special and unique we each are because He made us that way.

*Try glittery tissue paper,too. Be creative!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Random Inspiration

That was wierd. I almost posted this on the wrong blog. The annoying ghost in my computer. Just kidding ... The Spirit I respect doesn't live in my computer.

A random discovery

Dead Preachers. (They aren't all dead!) One of my more favorite speaker/writers listed here.