Apr 18 2015

Prayers of Psalmody, for those in Physical Pain

I am afflicted and in pain;
let Your salvation, O God, set me on high!
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 69:29-30 (ESV)

Physical pain, whether acute or chronic, can bring us both actually and figuratively to our knees. Would you please bow your heads with me today, as we fall on our knees and rest weary aching heads in feeble hands—our God is our Strength and our Deliverer, and He hears us when we call to Him through Christ our Advocate and the interceding groans of the Holy Spirit. Whether it is your pain, or the pain of someone you know (or both!), please bring these burdens to the Father’s Throne with me now—He will accept our offering, hear our prayers, and answer according to His will. Come with me in faith.

 

Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals, we come asking You humbly to hear our prayer in Your great mercy—please hear our cries for endurance and sustenance for as long as this pain lasts, and hear our cries for relief and deliverance—grant us, ultimately, peace through Christ with whatever Your will for our lives and our bodies and our pains may be, and take delight in satisfying and replenishing our souls (Jeremiah 31:25). Give us eyes to see what Your will is, and give us Your grace to accept what Your hands lay upon our shoulders.

Lord, help us to feel Your hand of peace and strength when we are in pain. Enfold us with Your strong comfort. Enable us to see and somehow embrace that in our suffering, we become closer to You and more like Christ (1 Peter 4:13). Help us to bless You, to remember Your kindness, to praise You for Your forgiveness and healing (Psalm 103:2-3), and the various ways You present these things to us Your children.

Please grant us the humility of spirit to accept this painful thorn as a gift from your hand (2 Corinthians 12:7), Father. Make us boast in Your strength when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:9), and help us never give in to the temptation of self pity and wallowing but gird our loins for the battle You have chosen for us (Isaiah 40:29). Renew our hope in Your future promises, allow our eyes to focus on the glorious gift of new bodies in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21) where our tears will be wiped away and our pain will be no more (Revelation 21:4). Pain can be so isolating—and genuinely can isolate us if we are bed ridden or house ridden due to physical pain—especially when it never seems to go away, so Father, please help us to remember that we are not alone—not only are You always with us, but others of Your people around the world and throughout time have and do also suffer in similar ways (2 Timothy 2:3). Make us firm in our faith through this trial, and in Your timing, please restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5:9-10) for the sake of Your glory, and even for the glory that You promise to share with Your people when the sufferings of this time are past (Romans 8:18). Lord, give us rest from this pain and turmoil, relief from this hard service You have called us to serve—give us voices to proclaim Your Gospel and Your Kingdom, to share Your providence and provision and healing hand (Isaiah 14:3).

Because we know that Jesus did not turn away those who suffered from various pains and afflictions (Matthew 4:24), we come with boldness asking for His hands of healing to remove this pain. Please cleanse our bodies of the physical ailments that deter us from further engaging in life and joyful participation in the lives around us (2 Corinthians 7:1). Oh Lord, our prayer is simple and our words are few—please grant healing, please take away this pain, please restore physical strength and health—please give glory to Yourself through this act of mercy. Grant us peace in this world of turmoil, for we are confident in our faith that You have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Lord, You know—You know!!—the suffering, the pain. Remember us, visit us, take vengeance on behalf of us for the sake of this pain (Jeremiah 15:15). God, please hear the depth of anguish as we cry to You—why is this pain unceasing, this wound incurable, why does this body refuse healing? (Jeremiah 15:18) We fall and flounder and falter, for this pain is ever before us (Psalm 38:17), in this affliction and pain, O God, we beg You to save us and set us on high (Psalm 69:29). Do not forsake us, Lord, but be near to us right in the midst of the suffering. Make haste to help us, for You, O Lord, are our salvation (Psalm 38:21-22). Father, even when we speak or when we pray or when we seek relief, it feels like our pain is never assuaged, and when we seek to be strong with endurance and forbearance for Your sake, the pain doesn’t lessen. It wears us out, Father, shrivels us up, and our bodies themselves rise up against us (Job 16:6-8). Our souls are poured out, for the days of affliction take hold of us—even in the night, our bones ache, and there is no relief from the agony because the gnawing pain never takes rest (Job 30:16-17).

Jehovah Shalom, Lord our Peace, You alone can give rest to our souls whether our bodies continue in this dire pain or whether You lift this physical burden from us (Matthew 11:28). Your Son, our Lord Jesus, is the only One who can give us peace which passes our understanding, so we ask You in Your grace to fill us with His peace and guard our hearts and minds during this season of life (Philippians 4:7). God, we are so tempted toward cynicism when the suffering is long and unrelenting—like Job, we can beg that You would simply crush us and completely cut us off. We can think that this would be a comfort, that it would glorify You. But Lord, give us the grace to follow in Job’s footsteps so that we exult even in the midst of unsparing pain, allowing us never to deny the words of You, our Holy One. We do not have strength and we do not know our end, so please give us faith to wait on You and to be patient as we call upon Your mercy. We are not made with the strength of stones or bronze, and You—our Creator—look upon us with understanding. (Job 6:8-12)

Father, You made us of dust and You filled us with Your own breath (Genesis 2:7), so we call upon You to remember our frame (Psalm 103:14). Please forgive our iniquities and take away our physical ailments, redeem us and crown us, satisfy us and renew us, O God we pray! Please show Your compassion to us (Psalm 103:3-5, 13). As we are bodies paired with souls, according to Your infinite wisdom, please care for our spirits as well as our physical temples—as Jesus went about proclaiming the Gospel and healing physical needs, please have mercy upon each part of our being (Luke 9:6, 11). Please heal our bodies and take away our pain—please strengthen our faith and increase our imaging of Christ for the sake of Your glory, for the furtherance of Your Kingdom.

And as we recognize our frailty in every way, please send Your Spirit to intercede on our behalf. Even our prayers are not brought to You on our own strength, Lord. We do not know how to pray, nor for what we ought to even ask, but we trust You and we rely on You—please, send Your Spirit to intercede for us, because we belong to Jesus, and hear His groans on our behalf. We know that You search our hearts, and we call upon You to hear the intercession of Your Spirit for us, according to Your will (Romans 8:26-27).

In our frailty, in our humanity, in our pain, in our suffering—O Lord, hear our prayer. Give strength to us, Your people and grant us Your peace (Psalm 29:11). For the sake of Christ in whose name we pray—trusting that He indeed is the Risen King who conquered death and sin so that we can look ahead toward perfect bodies and resurrected new life in the future Kingdom—amen.

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Apr 16 2015

Christ is Always Enough

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Motherhood is physically exhausting, emotionally draining work.
Where can a mother find the strength she needs to serve her family?
From God, who is “able to make all grace abound to you,
so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times,
you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).
~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p109~

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My prideful heart want o badly to be Super Mom
and for other moms to think I’m Super Mom.
Sometimes I prefer to glory in things other than God’s grace.
Pride shows up in many forms.
When we’re tempted to revel in the acceptance of others,
we need to draw near to God’s throne of grace.
We can have confidence that God will
hear our prayers, come to our aid, and bolster our hope in Him
because of what Christ has done for us on the cross.
Pride induces us to worry about tomorrow
as though we can control the outcome with our anxiety.
In those hand-wringing moments we need to remember
that God’s grace will still be sufficient tomorrow.
~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p121~

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Apr 14 2015

The Good Stuff

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Nothing comes easily.
You have to lose things you thought you loved,
give up things you thought you needed.
You have to get over yourself,
beyond your past,
out from under the weight of your future.
The good stuff never comes when things are easy.
It comes when things are all heavily weighted down like moving trucks.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p179~

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Apr 11 2015

delighting

We were made in the image of God.
We were created to delight, as He does,
in the resident goodness of creation.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p91~

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There is a habit that plagues many so-called spiritual minds:
they imagine that matter and spirit are somehow at odds with each other
and that the right course for human life is to escape
from the world of matter into some finer and purer (and undoubtedly duller) realm.

To me, that is a crashing mistake—
and it is, above all, a theological mistake.
Because, in fact, it was God who invented dirt, onions and turnip greens;
God who invented human beings, with their strange compulsion to cook their food;
God who, at the end of each day of creation,
pronounced a resounding “Good!” over his own concoctions.
And it is God’s unrelenting love of all the stuff of this world
that keeps it in being at every moment.

So, if we are fascinated, even intoxicated, by matter, it is no surprise:
we are made in the image of the Ultimate Materialist.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, xxvi~

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Apr 10 2015

Motherhood, daily & divine

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Any way you cut it, motherhood is intimidating…
moms might not know it, but they are the bravest of the brave…
and perhaps what makes this kind of everyday courage the most remarkable
is how very seldom it gets recognized.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised By Motherhood, p93~

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Vacations are more than vacations,
and that island is more than an island.
Vacations are the act of grabbing
minutes and hours and days with both hands,
stealing against the inevitability of time.
There will be a day when our family as we know it will no longer exist,
and I want to know in that moment that I wasn’t at the office or doing the dishes
when I could have been walking on the dock with my dad,
when I could have been drinking tea and eating ginger cookies on the porch with my mom.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p45~

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We are always to do our best,
striving to be obedient
and to love, nurture, and discipline them.
But we are to do it with faith in the Lord’s ability to transform hearts,
not in our ability to be consistent or faithful.
~Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace, p53~

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Apr 09 2015

Grace Upon Grace

I was telling (okay, writing) a friend yesterday about our recent visit to The Grace Agenda conference, and what a blessing it was to go, get away, recharge. So I realized I ought to share my thoughts here as well.
The conference, and the days spent traveling & away in general, were such a blessing. We went down on Thursday just so we could swim at the hotel, eat out, and watch cartoons with the kids on “a real tv”! The kids still aren’t quite sure what commercials are, and get excessively frustrated about them. Cracks us up. After the two little kids were asleep on Thursday night, my dad took Gabriel swimming again and my mom offered to listen for the toddlers (we had connecting hotel rooms, so we left the doors open between them, and she stayed in her room), so Steven and I went out for a little date to our favorite coffee house pub called Bucer’s, where there was live jazz and lots of hustle-bustle. We were only out for about forty minutes, and it was a refreshingly fun time. Friday and Saturday were very busy days of conference sessions, coffee breaks, lunch with friends, a dinner double date with excellent friends on Friday (my parents watched our kids and took them swimming for us during that time), playtime with our children, a fantastic choir concert on Saturday night.
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The conference sessions didn’t hold much “new” to us in all honesty, partly because the teachers were people we have known for twenty years & also just partly because Steven and I have both been raised in the Church and have continued in the Church. But it is always good to go hear things we already know, to preach old truths to ourselves in new ways, to sit alongside friends for mutual encouragement and exhortation. It made us very thankful. Rachel Jankovic and Nate Wilson were (as usual) my favorite speakers, just because they are so engaging and witty, weaving incredibly solid truths into their speaking without leaving it dry like crackers. (And it’s just funny, too, because my brother and I were friends with them when we were in our teens; I remember one time specifically on a Sunday afternoon, playing disc golf with them and some other young folks at the University of Idaho, and there was plenty of good laughter.) But so much has happened and changed in the intervening 15 or so years.
On Palm Sunday we were overwhelmingly blessed to be at Trinity Reformed Church, to hear Toby preach, to see so many friends we hadn’t seen since last summer, to cry with another friend who just buried another son (a 16 week boy, they named Gilead), to have some friends want to talk and subsequently wanted to pray with me right then and there for joy and hope. So beautiful and humbling. We then went out for lunch with another young family (I’ve been friends with the wife for years, but our husbands had never actually talked, just briefly met occasionally and shaken hands, etc) before driving home on the Sunday afternoon in sunshine and rest and hope and joy.
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So yes. A good weekend. In so many ways. And here are a couple random pictures from a Saturday evening session (you can tell the kids had gotten tired by now!), and some quotes I managed to scribble down from a few of the talks.

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The rocky soil produces the sweetest fruit.
~Bekah Merkle~

 Weaker doesn’t mean inferior. Compare a crystal goblet with a 2×4!
~Nancy Wilson~

 Love God, love your neighbor, love your enemies—that covers it.
~Douglas Wilson~

 If women are not allowed to be a female glory, they will become a feminine shame.
~Douglas Wilson~

 Exile is a universal human condition.
~Timothy Edwards~

 Wisdom is a tame word, but it’s not a very tame thing.
~N.D. Wilson~

 Tell stories and live stories. Use the stories around you to inform your character and shape your narrative.
~N.D. Wilson~

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Courage literally means of the heart. Courage does not mean bold, brash, outspoken, adventurous. We need courage in areas where we are tested. Any strength that requires resistance requires courage. Courage is the form of every virtue once tested. It takes courage to ask God, and for contentment as you wait. Pottery can not do anything until it has gone through the trial of fire. After we are tested we too become capable vessels that can hold water. Patience without courage is untested and weak. Peace combined with courage is fierce—it’s like a guard dog. It’s a peace that fights things off. You can only have one master, when you have Christ as your Master, you will have courage over fear. John 14:7, Deut 31:6, Josh 1:9, Heb 13:6, Ps 23:4, Eph 6:10, Ps 118:6, Ps 27:14
~Rachel Jankovic~

Contented means a deep satisfaction with the will of God. He has made us, called us, and even created the good works for us. Be satisfied to be created second. Be satisfied to be created female. Be glad for the calling of men. Be overjoyed in who your husband and sons are called to be. Be satisfied that God called your husband to be your head. Be deeply satisfied to be your husband’s glory, crown, helpmeet. Be satisfied with being domestic and fruitful.
~Nancy Wilson~

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Apr 08 2015

Tears Bottle, Tutorial

Published by under Crafting

Psalm 56:8
…tears…

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I have had people asking either to buy these little tokens from me or for a tutorial so they can make their own. Well, here’s the tutorial to the best of my ability! And if you rather, just send me a personal message, and we can talk about helping you get your hands on some I’ve made if you are less crafty yourself.

So to make your own little tears bottles, read on! Gather your supplies together before you begin, which may or may not involve purchasing some special things depending on the stock you have in your crafting stash.

Glass Bottles (I like the miniature sizes, like medication vials, best but any size right up to a wine bottle would make a neat gift)
Corks for the bottles (you could do it without corks, I just personally like corks so much)
Something to tie the tags on (I used baker’s twine, but you could use small gauge wire or tiny ribbon or embroidery floss, etc)
Metal Stamping Blanks (of various sizes, and mostly just according to your creative preference)
Metal Stamping Alphabet/Numbers (I used 1/16″ stamps on these mini bottle projects)
Bench Block
Hammer
Masking Tape
Hole Punch Pliers for Sheet Metal
Jump Ring (I used split rings)
Black Sharpie
Rubbing Alcohol (I have oodles of medical wipes, but you could just put some alcohol on a tissue or something)

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For a few thoughts on bottles…
You can buy something like these on Amazon (which are basically the same sizes as the medication vials I have used), or go bigger here maybe, or even do something super schmancy like this… In fact, for bigger sizes, I love these ball shaped bottles, I love these vintage style bottles, tear shaped bottles would be a neat touch, a set of bottles with corks, or even these adorable 5 oz bottles with caps. Pick up bottles or vials at the dollar store or at thrift shops, and keep a stash for when you find yourself needing to give a Tears Bottle as a gift. You may like different sizes, shapes, colors, etc. for different people or different times, don’t limit yourself.
And if you’re like me (I particularly love the itty bitty Tears Bottle styles I’ve made thus far), and you go through lots of medication vials (three shots a day for months at a time can build up a stash if you squirrel them away into your craft stash!), use a flathead screwdriver to pull off the metal and rubber cap on the empty medication vial, then wash the vial and get the label off (with rubbing alcohol, paint thinner, or acetone… and sometimes a good bit of elbow grease). My favorite size vial is what my Pregnyl or PIO came in, but it’s totally just personal preference. Just try whatever you can get your hands on.

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Like I said, I really like using little corks, and if you buy bottles they may come with them already.
But if you go the repurposing route like I have done, you may need to carve your own little corks, which is tedious at best. I have a ridiculously oversized stash of all kinds of wine bottle corks, so I just grabbed one, cut it in half, and ended up making a couple little mini corks from it, just whittling with a sharp kitchen knife.

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Once you have your bottles and corks, pick out what metal stamping blanks you want to use for each bottle. I have tried various combinations of sizes and types of blanks, and I love the various different looks they give. Design from your heart and go with your gut.

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Gather your metal stamps, blanks, hammer, bench block, and masking tape.

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Make sure you set your bench block on a sturdy surface, and use a small strip of masking tape to secure your blank to the bench block while you stamp, so nothing moves. Be certain that you use the right letters/numbers in the right order, and orient the stamp the right direction. Place them carefully, because once you hammer, there it is! :)

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Stamp away! You can see that I have come up with the way I personally prefer the design, with caps and lowercase in certain places, etc. Of course you have to remember that imperfections and variations really make these marvelous and give them their unique appeal. It can also take practice to get your groove, so be gracious with yourself.

PSALM 56:8 ~ tears

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Once you have stamped the blanks, unless you bought blanks that already have holes punched in them, this is where you add a hole with your sheet metal hole punch. Depending on the gauge and type of metal blanks, it will be easier or trickier to punch ~ but you can do it!

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Put discs together with a jump ring, which process may or may not eat up your fingernails. :)

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At this point, you want to take your black Sharpie and color in the letters and numbers you’ve stamped. It will look icky and messy. That’s the right way to do it, I promise.

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Now you just take a little rubbing alcohol (a prepared wipe, or just dab some on a tissue), and wipe off the excess. Now it’s looking pretty!

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Now you can take your baker’s twine, string, floss, ribbon… and tie your stamped tags onto the neck of your bottle in whatever fashion you like best.

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Look at these beautiful little tokens, gifts, reminders of what the Lord does. He does not just know that we cry. He doesn’t even simply watch the tears stream down our cheeks. He doesn’t even stop at the compassionate action of drying our tears. No, He is the Lord, and He takes our tears and puts them in a bottle. He knows each of our tossings. They are written in His book.

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What a beautiful thing to have a tangible, lovely reminder of what our King does for us. What a comfort in our suffering.

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Apr 07 2015

Prayers of Psalmody, for One Anothering

…as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of Your steadfast love
answer me in Your saving faithfulness.
Psalm 69:13

O Lord—my God, my Father, my King—God, Father, and King of us all. Please bend low to hear my prayer now, as I fall at Your feet. I come to You, asking You to show me how to love and serve and live by the light of Your grace in Your body, the Body of Christ. As I am faced daily with others—others who love You, serve You, belong to You—would you please teach me, show me, and enable me so that I can pour forth the heart of Christ into the hearts of His people.
My prayer is to You, O Lord, and I ask You to answer me in Your saving faithfulness because Your steadfast love is abundant.

Please, Father from whom all love flows in truthful abundance, enable me to love others, not by my own strength and might but by Your indwelling of the Spirit in my soul, pour Yourself out by Your loving grace through my thoughts, words, prayers, deeds, actions, and inactions.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER
John 13:34, John 13:35, John 15:12, John 15:17, Romans 12:10, Romans 13:8, Galatians 5:14, Ephesians 4:2, 1 Corinthians 16:14, 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 3:8, 1 Peter 4:8, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 5

Please, Father from whom there is no shadow or variation, enable me to show sacrificial kindness to others, not with words or speech only but with actions and truth.

SHOW KINDNESS TO ONE ANOTHER
Ephesians 4:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Please, Father who is the one and only God of truth, enable me to curb flattery and lies, rather to act and speak according to the truth in love which You desire Your people to pour out upon one another and upon the world around us.

SPEAK THE TRUTH TO ONE ANOTHER
Lev 19:11, Zechariah 8:16, Malachi 3:16, Ephesians 4:25, Colossians 3:9, James 4:11

Please, Father who teaches and instructs and bestows honor perfectly, enable me to honor all those You put around me, above me, and under me, in accordance with Your will.

HONOR ONE ANOTHER
Romans 12:10, Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:3-5, 1 Peter 5:5

Please, Father who rights all wrongs and redeems all the brokenness of the world through Christ’s work and sacrifice, enable me to abstain from wronging others but rather to seek their good and to sacrifice myself for their blessing.

DO NOT WRONG ONE ANOTHER
Lev 19:11, Lev 25:14, Lev 25:17, Zechariah 8:17, Galatians 5:15, Galatians 5:26, James 4:11

Please, Father who dwells with the Son and Spirit, who perfectly bear our burdens and strengthen us for their weight, enable me to give of my soul and my strength to bear the burdens of others through prayer and action and true sacrifice.

BEAR THE BURDENS OF ONE ANOTHER
Romans 12:15, Romans 15:1, Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:13

Please, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who wept with His beloved friends over the death of their brother, who knows what it is to look upon pain and suffering, enable me to cry, mourn, grieve, and sit quietly with those around me who are weighed down by the sorrows of this life.

WEEP WITH ONE ANOTHER
1 Sam 20:41, Romans 12:15, 2 Corinthians 13:11

Please, Father who gives us both holy Scripture and Holy Spirit to be our encouragement, who places us in the Body of Christ for mutual support and stimulation in the faith, enable me to be an encouragement to others so that their countenances will be lifted and You will be glorified.

ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
Proverbs 27:17, Romans 1:12, Romans 14:19, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 10:24, Hebrews 10:25

Please, Father of Paul the Apostle who specifically sought to exhort Your people, You who use the sword of Your Spirit to cut and hone our souls for Your purpose and Your Kingdom, enable me to rightly divide Your Word so that the words I speak and the prayers I pray would be an exhortation toward righteousness in Christ.

EXHORT ONE ANOTHER
Proverbs 27:17, Romans 15:14, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24

Please, Father of us all who welcomes us with grace and mercy, compassion and the shelter of Your protection, enable me to greet and welcome and embrace all who You put in my path, to the glory of Your name.

GREET ONE ANOTHER
Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Peter 5:14

Please, Father in the Trinity, who shares continual fellowship with the Son and the Spirit, enable me to imitate Your love and grace-filled fellowship so that I will build up the saints around me, and will be likewise built up by them, as we find opportunity to spur one another on to love and good works in the power of Your indwelling of us.

HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER
1 Peter 4:9, 1 Peter 5:14, 1 John 1:7

Please, Father who opens Your heavenly home to redeemed sinners, whose Son welcomed the poor and the marginalized, You who exemplify for Your people what it is to meet the needs of others, to pour ourselves out for the blessing of one another, to share our home and our possessions with people of all status and station, enable me to be hospitable with my words, my hands, my skills, and my home.

WELCOME ONE ANOTHER HOSPITABLY
Romans 12:13, Romans 15:7, 1 Peter 4:9

Please, Father for whom my soul longs and my spirit waits all the day, You who deign to patiently bear with my own weaknesses and frailties and stumblings, enable me to wait for others around me, so that I do not rush ahead in selfish greed, but rather come alongside others in the patient grace that You daily pour out upon me.

WAIT FOR ONE ANOTHER
1 Corinthians 11:33

Please, Father who is the God of peace, from whom flows all harmony and forgiveness, enable me to live at peace with all mankind, so that as far as I am able, Your peace and forgiveness dwells in me and flows through me to the point where I feel no animosity or jealousy, bitterness or unrest, and insomuch as I have influence, enable me to spread Your peace to others.

BE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER
Psalm 133:1, Mark 9:50, Romans 12:16, Romans 14:13, Romans 14:19, Romans 15:5, Galatians 5:15, 1 Corinthians 1:10, 2 Corinthians 13:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, James 4:11, James 5:9

Please, Father who delights over me with singing, enable me to sing not only to You in praise but to others for the sake of Your glory, for Your delight, for the proclaiming of Your sovereign goodness.

SING TO ONE ANOTHER
1 Sam 18:7, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16

Please, Father of all creation who loves to give good gifts to Your sons and daughters, enable me to use my talents and my resources to give to others, not selfishly but sacrificially and from the heart.

USE GIFTS TO BLESS ONE ANOTHER
Esther 9:19, Esther 9:22, Luke 3:11, 1 Peter 4:10

Please, Father whom we serve and whose Son taught us by example how to serve others as He gave His life a ransom for many, enable me to use the strength and skills and resources that You have provided me to serve others, as a good steward of Your grace.

SERVE ONE ANOTHER
Mark 10:45, Luke 3:11, John 13:14, Romans 12:13, Galatians 5:13, Philippians 2:5-7, 2 Corinthians 4:5, 1 Peter 4:10

Please, Father of forgiveness, abundant in grace and mercy, enable me to be humble in spirit so that I will not hide my sins or dwell in iniquity, but rather enable me to humbly confess my sins to those against whom I have committed wrongs, and enable me to gladly and unabashedly forgive those who likewise seek my forgiveness.

CONFESS YOUR SINS TO, & FORGIVE, ONE ANOTHER
James 5:16, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13, 1 Peter 4:8

Please, Father who hears our prayers and sees in secret, enable me to pray in private and in public as You give opportunity, so that I can pray both for and with those around me, to bring petitions and praises to You not only on behalf of myself but for the people You put into my life with their varied lives of joy and suffering, anxieties and sins, praises and gifts.

PRAY FOR/WITH ONE ANOTHER
Matthew 18:20, Acts 12:5, Romans 15:30, James 5:16

Our Father in heaven, who bends low to His children when we fall at Your feet, please hear the cries of Your child as I ask You to enable me to be a conduit of Christian grace to others, by the power of Your Spirit. Abba, Abba, Abba! Grant that I may glorify You in my interactions with those around me, so that Your glory will be magnified and Your Kingdom will be furthered on earth, where I await Your Son’s coming again where all will be made new, and Your people will see You—side by side—face to face.
For the sake of Your glory, Your power, Your Kingdom, Your honor, and Your Son~ amen.

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Apr 06 2015

Easter Lessons

This year, we went out of our way to do a few more hands-on lessons and Easter preparations with the children. The older they get, of course the more they grasp ~ and it is delightful to hear their own 6, 3, and 2 year old sized insights into why we do the things we do.

On Good Friday, rather than doing our normal homeschooling routine, while the little ones had individual room time (learning to play on their own for a solid hour is a good skill to learn), Gabriel helped me clean the house. We washed windows, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors, mopped floors, did laundry, washed dishes, wiped down cupboards. And while we worked together, we talked about why we were working so hard, and why is this what we chose to do on Good Friday. When I asked Gabriel what he thought, he paused in thought, then profoundly said, “Well, today is the day we remember the whole reason why Jesus came. He came to clean our hearts. So I guess that’s why we should clean our home.” I wanted to just stop the conversation right there, and leave it at that ~ because my kid gets SO much of the Gospel story, and I love hearing his perspective on it. It’s beautiful. But we went on to talk about how Jesus served others, even though He was King of all. We talked about “our people” ~ and who are our neighbors. Gabriel even asked if he could wash my feet when we were done cleaning, because he wanted to bless me and serve me like Jesus.

But I hate to admit, I forgot about the feet-washing, because by the time we were done cleaning the house, the little ones were ready to be done with solitary playtime, and we needed to move on to the phase of dirtying things back up again. Funny how we do that in my line of work: we clean things up so we can make them dirty again!

So after a little lunch, Evangeline was ready for a nap, and the boys & I got out supplies for some crafts that would hold more lessons.

We had already dyed Easter eggs with Grandmama, Auntie, and cousins, complete with super sweet and thoughtful conversations about the metaphors, symbolism, and just plain fun of the tradition. My children and I have talked numerous times this week about the symbolism we can see in the eggs… how they symbolize the rock which closed the tomb, but new life can spring forth from it… how we can take plain eggs and give them new clothing, as we do when we take on new life in Christ… how the yolk in a cracked egg can symbolize the glorious light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dark tomb when He burst forth in glorious array…
Click here to read about Easter Egg traditions throughout the life of the Church, following the Lenten season. Even plain old Wikipedia had some great thought-provoking things about Easter Eggs, or Paschal Eggs. And for some fun nuances on Easter Egg traditions, click here and have some fun with the kids in your life.

Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death,
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life.

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Thanks to Ann Voskamp’s diligent sharing each and every year, I finally felt like my boys were old enough this year to really grasp & enjoy a couple more unique & detailed hands-on projects.

First we had a snack of nuts and figs, while we made a crown of thorns (using a small grapevine wreath and a few dozen coffee-stained toothpicks) and talked a lot about the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Three year old Asher was nearly in tears (I love how his forehead crinkles and his chin quivers when he feels genuine sorrow), talking about Jesus being tortured, bleeding, and dying. He finally smiled again when I reminded Him that this was why Jesus came, and this is how He worked to save US from OUR sins. And in his sweet little voice, Asher proclaimed, “I sure love Jesus, Mommy.”

Matthew 27:29
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head…

Mark 15:17
…twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him.

John 19:2, 5
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe. So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.

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Next we went out on to the back porch and put together our own little Gethsemane. Using a small moss planter (I used this, and don’t let the word “large” fool you!), we filled it with soil. Then we set our tomb carved in the rock in the corner of the garden (I found that aquarium accessories could offer some neat options, like this cichlid stone), before filling the rest of the garden with plants. We used some little succulents we got at a local store along with some pretty decorative moss, and then Gabriel used small smooth stones to make a little pathway through the garden to the tomb. Last of all, the boys went on a stone hunt outside to find something that would serve as a tomb cover.

John 19:41
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

Luke 23:55-56
The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid.Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

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On Good Friday, we used last week’s palm branches and our homemade crown of thorns to decorate our dinner table, when we ate lamb and roasted vegetables and matzo ball soup, along with the Seder plate with all  its elements and plenty of wine.

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Our kitchen island was cleared of all other decorations, and that is where we laid our own little Gethsemane. On Friday evening we closed up the tomb. On Saturday morning we found a little soldier to keep guard outside the tomb. And the children looked forward to seeing what would come of it on Sunday morning.

Matthew 27:59-60, 66
And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. … So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

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Come Sunday morning, the children came downstairs to find the guard fallen down, the stone moved away, and a piece of linen folded inside the tomb.

Matthew 28:2-8
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay.Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.”So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples.

Luke 24:1-12
…On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee,that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”And they remembered His words,and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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They found a table set for a beautiful little breakfast. Fruit salad, hard boiled eggs with sea salt, mimosas, Easter story cookies, and Easter tomb rolls (the kids had helped me make those all on Saturday, which was really wonderful). Candles and music and the excited rush of gathering and eating and praising God together, singing Christ The Lord Is Risen Today. Gifts for each one at their place ~ books and chocolates.

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Once the morning feasting was done, it came time to don our Easter clothing (clothing is hugely metaphorical and meaningful in Scripture and the history of the Church) ~ even the Easter sermon mentioned this, because we had three baptisms during the service and these Scriptures were emphasized.

Ephesians 4:17-24
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus,to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:12-17
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Galatians 3:27
 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

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And so we got dressed in new matchy-matchy clothes (and my heart ached in all the heaviest and bestest of ways, because I have been given a family to clothe, and children who can wear sickeningly matchy outfits!), and talked about putting on Christ, putting off our old selves, putting on the new self in newness of life and the beauty of holiness, putting on love above all other things.

And then? Then the party really started. Gabriel pointed out, “there sure is a lot of joy around church and everywhere today!” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Because isn’t that just exactly, precisely the way it should be?! May the joy of the gospel, and of the Resurrected Christ, and of the hope He has given His people, shed forth from your homes, your families, your churches, and your wanderings until He comes again and everything is made new and all is set right.

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To the glory of the Father, amen. Allelulia!

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Apr 05 2015

The Light Shines!!

John 20:1
…it was still dark…

Darkness. I don’t know how long it has been dark, but it is still dark. I grope around trying to find my way, but I can not see any light. Even the early morning sky is a blanket of obscurity, stars hidden, moon unseen—dawn is not quite here. The garden is around me, lush things growing, dirt wet with morning dew, stones chilly at my touch. Everything hushed—quiet as death. The silence of grief is so loud.
We come with spices to anoint the dead, for He had been quickly buried. The weeping had been almost constant, yet eventually the tears give way to the empty feeling of what happens now? I feel lost, unable to see the One in whom I hope and trust. Is He there? If He is, what is He doing? I just want to see Him, touch Him, care for Him.

Psalm 39:7
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?

My hope is in You.

What happens in the dark womb? The lump of dough? The wine barrel? The pantry?
Children grow, yeasts multiply, sugars ferment, even potatoes and onions sprout in order to grasp for new life. Life happens—growth happens—in the darkness.

A quick word search shows that light + dark shows up in the ESV 68 times, with glorious encouragement to be found there! We quickly find reminders that God is the One who separates darkness from light (Genesis 1:4), who uncovers darkness and brings things to light (Job 12:22), He lightens our darkness (Psalm 18:28), the darkness is even like light to Him (Psalm 139:12), He is—in fact—the One who forms light and creates darkness (Isaiah 45:7) yet there is no darkness within Him (1 John 1:5). And Jesus, the Son of God, is the light of the world who can not be overcome by darkness, who came to overcome our darkness with His light!

But darkness fell on Friday, and grief overwhelmed Saturday because our light was buried in this cave. And now I can not see what is happening in the darkness.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

In a moment, I see the dawn begin. Grace upon grace, the sky’s black blanket lightens to a dark blue, then a golden halo suddenly explodes in the east—first, a sliver; then, rays that reach and flame and glow and expose. On the horizon now is light. Slowly, the darkness dissipates—the entire sky lightens, which lightens our eyes, which reveals what we must see. Rub our eyes clear of their disbelief. Blink away the shock. The earth shakes, the rock moves, the tomb is opened. The light shines!

John 12:46
I have come into the world as light,
so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.

Come close, peer into the hidden place where darkness has held my Lord, expecting to see His dead body lying in the shadows, still and cold and dim—He isn’t here. Glancing around in the small light of early dawn that barely reaches into the depths of the cave, eyes adjusting to what they see and what they don’t see—eyes falling on a pile of grave clothes, eyes move to a folded piece of linen that was set apart from the rest. Where is the body of my Lord? Who left this pile of His hastily anointed wrappings? Who folded this linen, setting it aside? How could this happen in the pitch black darkness of a cold, dank cave that held nothing but death?! Angels speak—angelic beings before whom we quiver.

Luke 24:6, 8
“He is not here, but has risen.
Remember how He told you…”
And they remembered His words.

Scrambling, trembling, glancing around. Trying to rack our brains to recall what the Rabbi had taught us, suddenly remembering His words and piecing together what He had been teaching us all along.
The angels a beacon of hope for those who came to the tomb in hopelessness, sitting in darkness and weeping in the shadow of death—in our hopeless, dark, miserable, lost place, the angels of the Lord bring words of peace, messages of light.

Luke 1:79
[He gives] light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.

We came in mourning, not knowing that the darkness of our grief would be lifted. We came to bless our Lord, not knowing that He was about to lift our burdens. We came before the dawn, and experienced the true rising of The Son—the glory of God surrounding us as the east brightened, the angels spoke, our eyes rested on the cloths in the tomb. Hope flickers once again in the hearts where despair had quenched, belief glints around the edges of souls earlier filled with doubt.

2 Corinthians 4:6
 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts
to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We long to do something, to care for someone, to do something tangible to make sense of our overwhelming intangible grief—so we come to the tomb to anoint, to finish with the fragile care of grieving women what had necessarily been accomplished so quickly by the strength of men two days before. And now not only in our humanity, but also in our femininity, the angels tell us of the risen Son—give us the job of going and spreading the news—engage us in the act of resurrection by arming us with Truth and filling us with Hope. We came in the weakness of distress and leave now in the strength of peace. The sky is bright now, the dew begins to dry and the birds begin to sing morning songs, as our feet swiftly carry us to the disciples—we sing and we cry and we wonder and we run! We are given the gift of sharing the hope and the light, of telling His disciples to meet Him in Galilee. And the hope that had died in our souls when He was crucified is rekindled now, in the faith that we are soon to see Him again, face to face.

Daniel 2:22
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with Him.

Like the women who first knew of Christ’s Resurrection, we too have been given the gift of sharing the light of Jesus which God reveals—the light of the knowledge of the glory of God—when we look to Jesus Christ as our Savior. He took away our darkness, has borne our sin, shows us the light that dwells with Him and lightens our lamp. Because He lives, and because His light can not be extinguished, we may now live in the light, rejoice in the light, hope in the light, trust and rest and believe in the light—where even our shadows and our hidden places are known, seen, forgiven, loved, and redeemed.

He is Risen indeed!

Psalm 18:28
For it is You who light my lamp;
the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

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