Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's Cookin'?

First full day of school. Ahhhh, routine. How I have longed for it.

I struggled this summer with the lack of schedule. We intentionally did not sign up for a bunch of things this summer, thinking it's good to get a little bored in the summer. But with all that free time, it seemed like I did more chauffeuring than ever, taking folks here and there because why not? Nothing else that needs to be done.... It left me feeling unsettled, not knowing if I had an hour to get something done, or 15 minutes, or 3 hours. That unsettled feeling soon turned to just plain old crabby.

I am learning that I need to be responsible for my own happiness. When you have babies and you stay home and the world revolves around their physical needs, your life gets turned upside down. As the years go by, you learn how to start spinning it back right-side-up, but still, your own wants get put on hold for a while. And it's ok, for a while. I was talking with a dear friend just this morning about how we have pressed the pause button on a few things in our lives. Willingly, and purposefully, we have set some things onto the back burner.

But I have to remember it's still on the stove! I found myself this summer feeling resentful of everyone else in the family because I had somehow become the coordinator and accommodater of their happiness, and who was doing that for me? You're cordially invited to my pity party. It's like I let some muscles atrophy, I couldn't even think what would make me happy, I'd been so used to not having the opportunity.

The kids are getting older, the needs are different. You know what they say, "when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." There is some truth to it. Who wants a resentful, jealous, crabby happiness coordinator? I need to be looking into that pot on the back burner and stir it up, tend to it a little bit before there's nothing there, for all of our sakes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Judges and Obama

After I got my Bible Background commentary for the Old Testament, I decided to try reading through these ancient books for the first time. I'm trying to understand all the verses, all the chapters, not just the familiar stories. It's a strange thing. The culture seems so different, the ways of the people so wacky. We don't live in the same world today. And yet, the nature of humans has not changed, we have not evolved into some greater beings. We still ooze jealousy and anger, we still think God would be wise to consider our input in His plans, we still want what we want, and we want it NOW! We live in the same world today.

I've made it to the end of Judges, which is a book full of inspiring stories that show how God will use imperfect people to draw nations to Him. There are stories that show how, when we are stepping out in obedience, we--with God--can accomplish impossible things. Think of Gideon and Samson. But the overall story of the book, I think, is that the people wanted a person to be their leader. they weren't satisfied with having God, the Creator of the Universe, as their leader. And I just keep wondering why?

It happens over and over in the book of Judges. The people do most of what God commands them to do, but not everything. They don't get rid of all the people in these lands as God instructed. And after a while, what do you know, they're worshiping God, the LORD, and saying with their mouths that He is the One true God, but they also just have a little statue for Baal in the backyard, just to sort of take advantage of the rain he might send, in case he's the real deal. And maybe a couple of little charms to give honor to Ishtar, the fertility goddess, you know, just for good luck. Not surprisingly, they find themselves in a pickle, get things really messed up, and then cry out to God. He raises a man or woman up to be a judge for them, they all remember that the LORD is indeed the One true God again, and they have peace in the land for 20, 40, or 50 years. That person dies, and before you know it, another generation of folks start to fudge a little with the other gods, make a mess of things again, and the cycle is repeated.

Is this so different from how we are today? I'm thinking not so much.

And, since I just finished Stephen Mansfield's book about Barack Obama's faith, I'm seeing a connection. I think of how millions of people have set their eyes on him as the great hope... Obama's big on a civil religion, one that will cover everyone's bases. What's the problem with that? His faith will "some allege, give people a watered-down religion of Americanism but insulate them from the raw but healing truth of revealed religion. In other words, it replaces traditional religion with a bland political religiosity that creates a mood without offering power. It is merely faith in faith rather than faith in God."(p.94)

Doesn't that kind of thinking sound familiar? Yikes. Are we being asked to find hope in that? Blech. A recurring statement in Judges is "the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." Let us not grow too confident in our own eyes. Seems that just leads to big barrels of pickles.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review--The Faith of Barack Obama

You won't typically find me in my spot on the couch with this kind of book, and I found myself skeptical as I began to read it. But that's not Mansfield's fault. I don't watch the news, I read occasional articles in the Sunday paper, catch some stories on line and on the radio. But I definitely steer clear of Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, Matthews, Colmes, etc., etc. I'm suspicious of all of them. They tell me spun versions of what they want me to hear, and how can I ever form my own opinion? So, I feel I must fess up to the attitude I had going into the reading of The Faith of Barack Obama.

This seems like a brave book to write, in that telling the story of anyone's faith--one who's living, that it is--is like trying to 'catch a moonbeam in your hand.' Our faith is a fluid, hopefully growing, active, moving thing. It isn't easily pinned down. Can you think of what "The Faith of (insert your name here)" would say? How would it end? But Stephen Mansfield tackled the brave task, in writing this book that is part biography, part sociological examination, and part US History lesson.

Mansfield asserts that Obama's faith, like everyone's, "is a work in progress, and no man can be accurately portrayed by a portrait frozen in time."(p.58) I agree with that, and it was interesting to get a picture of where Obama came from, where he might be now, and what he might be after--faith-wise. It helps me understand the appeal, and how people are so drawn to him. And I think I've gained understanding into why Obama's faith should be of any concern to me, and that is because Obama himself insists that our faith can't be held separately from how we govern, so we need to find a way to make it pleasing or acceptable to all. Mansfield describes this as a civil religion, "using social justice concerns as a call to religious neutrality in honor of the secular American way."(p.95)

This scares me, but a book review isn't the place to go on about that. I recommend you read the book yourself and see what you think. It comes across as a pretty objective look at Obama and sheds light on the black church in America, as well as the opportunity that sits before us to move toward healing in this country.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wacky, Wacky Old Testament

Since Judges follows Joshua (the last Old Testament book I read), it seemed like a good idea to dig into Judges. There is more killing and fighting; more of the Israelites getting themselves into a pickle, worshiping Baal and Asherath; more of God turning them over into the hands of their enemies; more of the Israelites crying out to God to rescue them when it got unbearable; and more of God doing just that--rescuing them.

These Old testament ways are hard for me to understand. I have to read them for a while, over and over, before I can make any sense out of them. The Israelites' troubles began when they didn't really clear out the land like they were supposed to, and then things snowball when they start dabbling in these other people's gods and rituals. The LORD said not to mess with that stuff, to worship only Him. They couldn't do it, time after time. They'd be good for 40 years or so, and then they'd slip and fall hard. So why didn't God just give them the Promised Land empty, without the troubles of other people and their gods? If He wanted Israel to worship only Him, why expose them to all this other junk?

here's what I think so far:
Its the free will thing. He wants His people to knowingly, purposefully choose to worship Him. They can see what else is out there, and go to Him. And, of course, when it gets really bad that's exactly what they do. I'd kinda' like to not wait for the ugliness, and make that choice now. But how quickly I can get distracted by the other things.


It's the He wants ALL people to come to know Him thing. God wants to draw all people to Him. If Israel is a tight little community that never has anything to do with anyone else, then the LORD is a secret. One of my favorite verses backs this up: “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us." Acts 17:27NLT

Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Reading

Thanks to my friend April, I've been given the opportunity to review a book on my blog. I emailed the publisher saying I'd like to do it, and they sent me a copy of the book, and ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing, I'm gonna' be the writer of a book review. It came in the mail today, Stephen Mansfield's new book, The Faith of Brack Obama.

So, I'm busily reading, and will let you know what I think post haste!
Thanks April, for thinking of me and this little blog.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Plant Quiz

Can you identify this plant? Tell me what it is! And advise me on how to care for it. These big flowers open up in the morning, and then a day or two later they fall off.

I have no green in my thumb; I don't think I have the attention span for it. But I go to the annual plant sale at the kids' old school and buy some tomato plants, basil, and cilantro, and I usually buy some flowers to fill one big pot for the backyard. The flowers in that it this year were some cosmos, and two other flowers that have since been choked out by this rogue squash-ish plant. It wants to climb, so much so that it was leaning over and grabbing the basil in a pot 5 feet away! I unwrapped it from the basil and gave it a chair to climb on.

And maybe this little nubby thing will be some fruit someday? Or maybe it's just going to be a new flower....

Please don't tell me it's just a weed that I've let run roughshod over my flowers. That would be a bummer, and ruin the fun I've had watching this thing with a life all it's own. I'm hoping it will produce some kind of fruit someday. It does make me think of the verse in Galatians where Paul says you will reap what you sow. Where did this plant come from? Did I sow it? Clearly, I did, the plant is growing there in my pot.

Of course Paul is talking about motivations, behaviors and attitudes. Here's the passage:
Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. --Galatians 6: 7-9 NLT

So do you think we can unknowingly sow selfish-ness, or pride? Can we arrange a pot with a bunch of nice pretty Spirit-pleasing obedience and kindness, for example, and find, a few weeks later, that a big old, choking something else is growing there? Or, can we unknowingly sow goodness and find it unexpectedly flowering and producing fruit? Hmmm.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Know What This Is?

It's summertime in a glass!
Sangria made with a dry (not sweet) French Rose....mmmm...yummy in the backyard on a Friday night.

Wanna try some?

1 bottle of wine (white, red, rose, whatever strikes your fancy)
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
a spoonful of sugar
fruit of your choice! slice up a lemon, lime, orange, apples, nectarines...
throw in some berries or grapes....
right before serving, add a 16.9 oz. botle of seltzer or tonic water

From me to you with love!