Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Can't Say...

I'm having one of those mornings where having feelings sucks. I can't really voice my true feelings to most of the people around me, because I don't want to deal with their responses. Ultimately, those replies would tell me that I'm being insensitive, that the world does not revolve around my schedule, or otherwise belittle my feelings. I know that it is petty to declare that something was mine first, but really, that is what I want to do. I don't want to share or change. I want to be able to voice my thoughts without criticism. I want people to acknowledge that their decisions are hurtful.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Grunge Rock and the Edge

Usually, I love listening to country music. I grew up with it. It seems like it is the soundtrack of my childhood. It makes me smile on dark days. Sometimes, though I'll switch to "Contemporary Christian" music. It can generally take me deeper into worship. Other times, it is a heavier, darker sound but still within the broader category of Christian music. Then there are the days where none of this just seems to fit. Today is one of those days.

The music that seems to echo the feelings inside me today tends toward 90's alternative/ grunge. I don't know why, exactly, this is today's soundtrack, but it is. I'm feeling the likes of Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Counting Crows, Sublime, Nirvana, Matchbox Twenty, and Vertical Horizon. It is like there is a desperation in my soul for something more, something bigger, something deeper. Go figure. 

I mean, really. Who expects music that has little to no relation to a Christian faith to suit the mood of a greater pursuit of God? Most people would label this music as bordering on/ fully engaged in a mood of depression and endings. But I find a raw desperation that tugs at the very edges of my soul, drawing me to a point of openness that most other music will never reach. 

This is a struggle for me. I'm told that it is Christian music, especially worship music that should draw me in closer to God. That it is Christian music that should suit this mood, any mood, every mood. But there are days like this when the songs we sing in church and the hymns that I was raised with just don't feel right. They just don't seem to convey the longing that I feel. I know that I want more of God, and that I should use the time tested methods to find the next step that I am seeking. 

Right now, as I stand at the edge looking over into the fog obscuring everything beyond my toes, I know that God is preparing me to jump. I pray that it will be more like hopping from one stone to the next to cross the river safely. However, I feel like it is going to be a jump where all I can do is pray that my feet end up underneath me when I land, if I land at all. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Psalm 23: One Step At A Time

I decided to analyze one of the most commonly used passages in the Bible. Almost everyone, believer or not, has heard the 23rd Psalm. This is a psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

v. 1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

In Hebrew, the name used instead of LORD in this passage is Yhovah (Jehova) meaning the self-existent, eternal God. 

When Yhovah is our shepherd, He is our friend and companion. 

When we are walking with Him, we will not be in need. This does not mean that we will have everything that we have ever wanted, but it does mean that we will have our basic needs taken care of. 

v. 2

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Yhovah makes us rest. For a sheep, a green pasture is an ideal home in which to lie down and rest. This is a parallel to what He is telling us to do. He wants us to rest in Him, a spiritual resting - and sometimes a physical one too. 

Still water, while pretty to look at, is almost never good to drink. It is in that stillness that the most toxic of organisms has the peace to grow. This is why we are led by it and not stopped to drink it. Moving water, on the other hand, is fresher, does not give time for things to grow, and is safer to drink.

v. 3

He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 

When we allow Him to, Yhovah takes our soul and turns it away from evil and heals it. 

Yhovah has a path which is laid out for us,  and the purpose of this path is to glorify and honor Him. 

v. 4

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. 

While we are making our way through the valley of the destroyer (Satan), there is no reason to be afraid of adversity or harm, because God is with us.

Yhovah's rod is something that is used as a weapon, the source of our safety and defense. His staff is a representation of His sovereign protection.  


Thou preparest a table in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 

Yhovah is arranging a meal (could be taken to reference the Kiddish cup/ communion) in front of those who seek to bring me harm.

He pours fragrant oil over my head as a blessing. This isn't just any oil though, it is a fragrant oil, and it is likely to be very expensive. Even if it is just olive oil and not infused or blended with various other oils, it would have had a lot of value to those in that period. It seems that there is a lot of symbolism in this oil as it is portrayed to actually represent the holiness and favor of God (see Strong's 8081)

He satisfies me beyond my need. My "portion" is of great wealth and abundance. I am blessed beyond measure. This continues the thought that we are anointed with His favor, because we cannot store up for ourselves anything in the next life on our own merit. What we receive in heaven is something that is only given by God's grace. 

v. 6 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

To me, it seems that David is confidently expecting that God will bless him in this life, and embrace him into eternity. 

David is anticipating graciousness and favor to always be hunting him. Most of the time, when we think of someone or something being hunted, it suggests that their death is imminent. In this case though, it appears as though David will be hunted by God to receive favor, whether David desires it or not. I think that David did want the favor from God, and even found it to be refreshing because of the tumultuous times in which he was living here on the earth. 

I find this last line intriguing. There are two ways that I believe it can be taken. 

One is that David intends to remain in the temple of Yhovah for the rest of his days here. This seems unlikely, as David wished to rebuild the temple, but had too much blood on his hands to do so. Therefore, it became Solomon who built the second temple, even though David laid the foundation. 

The other, which is more likely, is that David will inhabit the heavenly court of the Eternal Yhovah for as many days as there are in eternity. After all, David is a man after God's own heart.

This is the first Bible passage that I have ever attempted to "translate" or develop commentary like this on. Please let me know of any errors or mistakes that you notice. I'll be forever appreciative of any input that you have to offer, whether it is positive or negative. 

My primary sources for this task include:
1. The Interlinear Hebrew-Aramaic Old Testament, which is Volume II of The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek-English Bible, copyright 1985

2. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek Dictionaries

3. Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, copyright 2006

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I just don't know what to say.
I just get swept away.

I get caught up in You, God.
I felt that today.
I'm questing for You, God.
I hope You see it that way.

I feel the hunger
Need the desire
Crave the filling
I need you near.

I can't explain it.
I feel like a fool.
I'm starving for spiritual food, God.
Please let me be in You.

I feel so tossed, Lord.
So beaten by the waves.
Please pour your love, Lord,
Completely, today.

I'm overwhelmed, Daddy.
I know that I'll be okay.
You'll protect me, Daddy.
No matter what man may say.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Covenant With God

For some time now, I have been longing for a stronger, deeper relationship with God. This isn't a new quest; rather, it is an ever expanding journey. In the last several weeks, God has been calling me to take a giant, flying leap forward in my growth. This leap is something that I have found myself resisting, as I cannot fathom where I will land - as that which goes up must at some point come down. I'm hesitant about the possibility of a bloody and miserable crash landing.

However, God has given me a choice. I can choose to sit and wallow in my present level of belief, or I can take this jump and receive the ability to fly. It is with this decision in mind that I am choosing to jump. With what God is asking of me, I know that I am going to struggle daily to persevere. I'm going forward anyway. He has placed it on my heart to enter into a covenant through the swearing of an oath. On that note, this is the covenant with which I enter (this may be added to as God leads; it will not be removed or modified to suit my personal whims.)

Under the blood of Christ and in the name of God, I speak that in all circumstances I will follow God's will above my own or that of others. In this cause, I believe that God has ordained that I take upon myself the following requirements.

Because I struggle with the need to feel pretty and to put on a mask to hide my true self and therefore hiding God in me, I am going to:
1. Not wear any jewelry or makeup, except for a wedding ring to show that I am married.
2. Not wear any other accessories except for: belts to hold my pants up; hats, gloves, and scarves for cold weather; and scarves and vests as expected by church groups.
3. Not dye my hair, cut, or style it in ways that will draw attention.

Because I find myself becoming easily distracted by the ways of this world, I will:
1. Finish reading the book "Celebration of Discipline" and practice the spiritual disciplines contained within the pages of this book. I have started this book twice as a part of my Lenten study and never finished it.
2. Fast from food weekly, growing from twelve hour to twenty four hour fasts. The times that would otherwise be spent eating will be spent in prayer and reading the Bible.
3. Observe a weekly Sabbath as commanded in the Ten Commandments.

As someone who has struggled with substance abuse and self-harm, especially during periods of spiritual growth, these expectations are to preserve the body that I have.
1. Neither alcohol nor tobacco shall be used.
2. There will be no deliberate damage to skin.
3. No medication of any kind will be taken except when absolutely necessary.

These statements constitute the covenant which I enter into today, September 3rd, 2014. This sworn oath will end on the first Sunday of Advent, which is November 30th, 2014. In the event that this is broken, may the punishment of God be swift and just.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cleaning House

My spiritual year can be divided up like the life cycle of a tree.
Season - Tree - My Year
Spring - New Growth - Preparing for the summer's ministry
Summer - Full Bloom - Enjoying the summer's ministry and growth
Autumn - Changing Colors - Evidence of the summer's growth is pretty
Winter - Hibernation - Spiritual desolation and an emotional wasteland

It feels like for almost half of the year, I am starving for God. In the other half of the year, I am overwhelmed by God. I don't really know how to explain it better than that. But it is in that time, where I feel so far from God, that I find myself doing something that I would guess is actually pretty common. My job becomes an idol.

When a friend asks me what I have been up to lately, my answer isn't usually about something that is going on with me anymore. Most likely, it has to do with working on lesson plans or trying to figure out what I am going to do with a particular student. Once in a while, it has to do with something I'm involved with at church, like the handbell choir, children's ministry, or another event at church. Rarely, I'll actually open up and share what has been on my heart. A lot of the time lately, I have been more than a little bit likely to rant shortly after I tell you that I've been busy working on school things. I'll rant on and on about my niece and nephew. Unfortunately, a lot of things have become idols lately. Just listen to me talking and you'll figure that out pretty quickly.

I don't want them to stay as idols, but I struggle to release them.

A lot of my focus on preparing for school lately is necessary. I am teaching marine biology, Bible, and math levels spread from pre-algebra to pre-calculus. Take a guess... that is a lot of work, and I'm still waiting on some of my materials to come in. I still have movies that I need to watch, trips to the library that I need to make, and notes to type up.

Right now, a lot of my activities at church are on a summer hiatus, but will pick up again just after school starts. I'm excited for that, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up with all of them with the increased load at school.

I'm also taking several classes online at the moment. Because being busy is my normal, taking one class just isn't enough.

The kids. I love them dearly. But, to be brutally honest, I need a vacation from them. They have been here almost every other week all summer and their dad has been taking summer classes so that he can finish his degree faster. Unfortunately, my presence has made me the go-to babysitter. This leaves me feeling like I'm being taken advantage of and unable to get much else done.

I look at my desk, my closet, my dresser, my nightstand, the floor of my bedroom and I get overwhelmed. I know the steps to cleaning and organizing, but even making it come down into smaller steps is intimidating. I wish that I knew how to make it less so. I organized my desk recently, and with it came a small touch of satisfaction. Except that even in its most organized form, it still looks incredibly cluttered and it feels awkward to work with. I started trying to tackle all of the spaces in my bedroom yesterday, and by the end of the closet, everything else just looked more overwhelming. Today, I should be working on it more, but I don't even feel like I know where to start.

The concept of cleaning for a few minutes every day as a way to keep the messes to a minimum sounds like a crazy idea to me. It was never really modeled for me growing up, because binge cleaning was considered normal. I guess that is what happens when both parents work full time. It is how I learned to do it though. I will admit that I miss cranking up the stereo and singing along with the radio while I worked.

I miss fresh country air now. And sunlight. (Yes, I know that it is August and that there is plenty of sunlight outside even in the suburbs.) I miss opening up the house and airing it out. It always seemed cleaner that way. Plus, it was easier to clean when you weren't getting high on the chemical fumes.

So maybe I'm just overwhelmed and homesick and practicing a lot of procrastination lately. And somehow it is spilling over into my spiritual life.

I suppose that I should go and at least find the floor on my half of the bedroom. Because my husband's half is already clean. He's organized and neat like that.

Understanding John 3:1-21

John 3:1-21 Jesus teaches Nicodemus

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who as come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit."

"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven - the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

One of the first scripture verses that I learned as a child (in the King James version, no less!) was John 3:16. I was much older before I learned that there was a context for this verse. But how many of us learned verses by rote, and can still rattle off that the shortest verse in the Bible is "Jesus wept." or that we know "For the wages of sin is death" and cannot finish the verse but remember well the poster we learned it from because of the designs on it.

I believe that this is one of the major pitfalls of children and youth ministries today. We hand out verses on stickers and buttons and pencils, but never take the time to really delve into why the verse is of value. So why would we remember a verse twenty years later and be able to use it correctly? We won't.

In checking out a book on our bookshelf here at home, along with reading nearby passages in the Bible, this is information that can be gleaned to help give us a broader picture of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. The book I'm using is the Holman Bible Handbook, copyright 1992.

So who wrote this book?

Traditionally, this is attributed to the apostle John, son of Zebedee and brother of James. (HBH, p. 606)

Why was the book of John written?

This is information that is actually written in the Gospel of John. "That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:31

Why is it specified that Nicodemus was a Pharisee?

The Pharisees legalized the purity laws of the Old Testament, focusing on ritual cleanliness. They also were demanding that people follow "the tradition of the elders" - Mark 7:3 (HBH, p. 608) As Jesus was one who broke Pharisaic law, he was not really someone that Nicodemus would want to be seen associating with. It would have threatened his high position to become a known associate of Jesus.