November 28, 2007

Hangs in the air like snow

I see them more this time of year, when a falling leaf becomes a scarce event, and the chill of snow hangs in the air like the warmth of rain did in the summertime. I see these kids- they are still kids no matter how twenty and so many months they claim to be- all over campus, smiling and laughing, comfortable and secure in their sweatpants and puff jacket ensembles, scarves emblazoned with the university's logo. This is pre-requisite, the immediate latching onto of new territory by way of symbols; four years ago the high school, now the college, and so on into the future of company logos and automobile hood ornaments. This is a way to associate. I see them almost every day as I wind around this hilly town on my way to nowhere. And I almost always let out a little snort of contempt when I do. But why?

I was like them once too. Perhaps slightly more cynical even at that time, but still more like them then than I am now. It was easier then to have style, to make plans and goals, to dream. I find it more difficult by the day to do these things now; faced with the idea of what is appropriate I shudder to think I might define myself in the coming days, let alone years. What is the appropriate style for a twenty-seven year old now? And what of plans, goals? I cannot but sigh when pondering, "dreams." When did I become so melancholy?

November 21, 2007

Finding the Jam

I just don't write like I used to.

On a recent trip to my sister writing site, Faithwriters, I scanned my previous posts, attempting to assess my own prowess with the pen, er, keyboard. Which topics do people like to read the most? How can I increase my audience? How many articles do I averagely publish in a month? Six months? Boring little self-concerned stats like that. You know, the kind of research we all do but rarely admit how seriously we analyze it!

I discovered some interesting trends. First there have only been two months in the last year that I have contributed more than one article to the manifold of Christian authorship: March and September. Secondly my writing has taken a noticeably muted turn in style, becoming more careful about word choice and the point-of-view from which it speaks. I speak more specifically now, where in the past I wrote in generalizations.

My most-read topic is "women's interest," although if there was a "childhood recollection" category on Faithwriters that would be a serious contender for the number one slot. And what I consider "halfway fiction" pieces, those which do not explicitly mention me as the main character but could easily be interpreted as such, are not as easily read as my non-fiction, scripturally-based devotionals. Readers also seem to like what is speculative, and do not chasten me for holding a strong opinion about something I have yet to personally experience. (Anyone feeling bedraggled by Blogger comments should consider Faithwriters for respite!)

I've started to notice a general trend, regardless of topic, which is, in this sentence at least, ironic; my lens has focused, showing an increasingly less general view of the church and the world. I don't attach as many negative attributes to a general population so much as I claim them as products of my own unattractive heart posture.

In short I find a much broader reader base than I have here at Blogger, and feel more comfortable writing there. My work reflects this; I've published about 100 blogs in a year, but several have been removed (by me) because of poor content, or replaced with re-postings from other sites. Far less of my own material makes it onto my blog, and lately I don't feel compelled to post anything at all. Granted that has to do with personal depression and financial trouble, which tends to overshadow the importance of posting.

But part of the depression does come from a feeling of non-contributiveness to the blogging world. All these bloggers with all these things to say every day; they all have a story to tell, or a stylistic way to tell it, and they plug away at it as often as possible. What is the story I have to tell? I'm not sure yet, so perhaps that is the underlying reason why I don't bother to blog.

I've often been told I over-analyze myself. If you recall, that's how this whole post started. I don't agree that my self-examination occurs too much to make it worthwhile. On the contrary I think it is my bread and butter, stylistically. I just need to find my jam.

November 7, 2007

Does God have the same plan for everyone?

Reading through the New Testament is like reading an old journal; you are reminded so much of where you have come from and where you intended to be going. Yet it differs in so many wonderful ways, the greatest being that the Church, though the enemy in many forms tries to convince us otherwise, is growing. It is being strengthened. Granted it is not growing in this country, at least not very noticeably, but it is growing around the world. China, India and parts of the Middle East are believing on Christ in droves by the day.

Why is this happening? Or, how is this happening? Believers are accepting more easily now, perhaps, the will of God in their lives. And when you know God's will, and how it is tailored to your unique circumstances and gifts, life becomes a whole lot simpler. So what is His will for you, for me, for all of us?

It may not be as unclear as we sometimes make it out to be: He wants us to grow the Church, of which Jesus is the head, by apologetically encouraging unbelievers to become a part of it. Once joined, He wants us to have a special heart for nurturing and building these new members up, training them doctrinally and theologically so that they can go on build it up more, and so it goes. Simple as that sounds, I believe it is the ultimate answer to any doubts we have about where we find ourselves geographically, who we find ourselves associating with and what occupations we find ourselves doing.

"But it really isn't that simple," you might object, "There are all sorts of details, specific questions that must be addressed before knowing if our immediate circumstances are according to God's will or not!" I sympathize with you. I, too, often become nervous to the point of exhaustion wondering if the actions of today were God's will, or whether I was working against Him by doing what I did, or similar queries. And although today is a part of history and is, thus, can be evaluated on a daily basis, I strongly encourage you to dissect His story as little as possible. For God's story is not bound in time because God is not bound in time, so it may do little good to try and see what is happening today in accordance to God's will.

"For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?" (Romans 11:34)

There is nothing we can do to add to the Lord's counsel, His direction for us, His choices. We cannot know His mind, except to know that His mind is the mind, and our minds are derived from Him.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

Every day present yourself as a living sacrifice to Him, and rest in the belief that He is doing something with you eternally even though you are bound by time yourself and cannot fathom what He could possibly do with, in my case, a miserable, disobedient sinner who just wants to know everything He's up to.

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:2).

So long as you are being transformed, and you will know this in your mind (not by your feelings), you will become less attached to the world and less curious to know what He is doing with you right now. You will begin to dream about what He could possibly be doing with you eternally. And then, someday, you will find that you are done daydreaming, but instead you are living out God's will without even realizing it.

October 29, 2007

Day seven

We love him, because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19

Day six

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not;
charity vaunteth not itself,
is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked,
thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

October 26, 2007

Fifth day of verses

"And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence, for it is written: "He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone."

And Jesus answering said unto him, "It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

Luke 4:9-11

(When dealing with fierce and intense temptations answer from Scripture and answer in brief.)

The importance of expository preaching

Here is a wonderful talk by Alistair Begg (Parkside Church, Ohio) on the importance of expository preaching. I found it to explain to me, from the pastor's side, why I have an aversion to certain "types" of sermon or pastors themselves. In general it seems to have to do a lot with liking induction and despising deduction, but that's a different blog topic altogether. I'll get to it later.
This talk is only twenty minutes and worth it, so please listen when you get a chance.

October 25, 2007

Day four

Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer preserve my life
from fear of the enemy.

Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked;
from the insurrection
of the workers of iniquity.

Psalm 64

Day three

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me:

I found trouble and sorrow.

Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

Psalm 116:1-8

October 23, 2007

Day Two

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace; wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

Ephesians 1: 3-7

October 22, 2007

A week of verses

"Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.

Go near to listen, rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Much dreaming, and many words are meaningless.

Therefore stand in awe of God!"

(Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, 7)

October 16, 2007

One letter a week

Apparently I just don't care anymore. I don't care what the consequences are for speaking with truth to those who are seeking to destroy it under the guise of free choice. In my former days there would have been no shortage of curses for these people, but my misdirected anger always failed me in the end. These days, I write letters. I don't get responses, but I know they get them. Here's my current correspondence, this time with Planned Parenthood.

Dear Planned Parenthood,

I am so disappointed to see that there is a Planned Parenthood in the city to which I just moved. This grieves me because I need women's health services, and your "business" is the only one near enough that I could get to reasonably.

I looked up your website and read your proclamation that October is "family sexuality education month." Does this mean we should be educating our children about sex, or about their sexuality? Are you asserting that there is no difference between the two? You mention casually that "we are sexual from the moment we are born;" should we be so quick to "educate" our children as soon as they can sit up to exercise their sexual nature? Where shall we draw the line; is ten years old too young to educate my daughter? How about eight years of age for my son? In some countries child brides are as young as five years old; but hey, they have been sexual since they were born, so this must be ok, too?

I realize you are a business; a baby-killing, choice-squelching, woman-destroying business. So perhaps your efforts to promote "education" to our children is merely a thinly-veiled ploy to drum up more business of the like. Forgive my bluntness, but let's be honest: would you be as financially prosperous as you are without the thousands of abortions you perform each year? How much do you receive when you refer someone to an adoption agency? Or when you insist that abstinence is the only way to be fully protected from stds and unwanted pregnancies? My guess is none. Preventative care just ain't paying these days it would seem.

By my own accord and feelings, I am not ready to be a mother. But I'll be damned (literally) if I would kill a baby I had been given and hand my money over to you in the process.

Repent, you who seek to kill the least of all of us, our babies. You who leave women without rhyme or reason to dealing with the guilt, the isolation, the pain and the confusion that an abortion provides as a parting gift.

Repent, you who purport to be helping women by providing these "services," while at the same time furthering your own agenda of a woman-centered and utterly feminized world. You would rather see the choice of women who want to be mothers taken away than admit you are wrong.

Repent, because you will spend more time paying for this sin than glorifying yourself in it.


Please, contact me with any questions.

Victoria Tkachuk

October 15, 2007

When? Today. Who? You.

If we are His people,
then He is Our God.
If not today, then when?
If not you, then who?

When is it really going to be
time for revival?
Who really wants to give their whole life
for Our Lord?
If not today, then when?
If not you, then who?

When is all this fear
really going to dissipate?
Who wants to put everything on the line,
even their comforts, for Him?
If not today, then when?
If not you, then who?

When are we going to stop making accommodations
for that which is not the Word of Truth?
Who is going to tell these people
to shut their mouths?
If not today, then when?
If not you, then who?

If we are His people,
then He is Our God.
If not today, then when?
If not you, then who?

September 27, 2007

Capable and Committed

She greets me at the front door of the complex, baby in sling across her front, warmly surveying me through Calvin Kline geek chic glasses. Quick! Think of something witty! It's always smart to greet people like her with a witty or worldly remark so that your personality shines through the uniform. We climb the three flights to her upper flat, a two-bedroom with unfinished concrete walls and baseboards of untreated wood. Very vogue.

She directs me toward the to-do list, pausing on the "cat house" item. Leading me to the guest bedroom she points out the object in question. "My husband likes to call it the cat condo," she jokes. Everybody has a condo these days, I think. "It's not so bad, I can see the design element," I say. Now she trusts me.

I comment on her furniture and choice of color palette. "I see so many that are just beige and more beige," I compliment her. Now she really trusts me.

Despite my muted jealousy, I want to tell her how nice it is to be here in her home, to have a refuge away from Pottery Barn-decorated condo after gay condo. I want to tell this woman how refreshing it is to be cleaning the home of a straight, married couple with a child.

But I know she won't understand me, won't see how big a threat the former is to the latter's existence. "And besides," she will change the subject, "this really isn't our home so much as it is our dwelling."

Their dwelling? I keep my mouth clamped shut, for fear I will seethe. Even now I am finding it difficult to suppress my desire to mock the magazine titles that adorn this woman's cultured Indonesian coffee table: Metropolitan Home, Modernism Magazine, the New Yorker.

I decide to get started. Looking for a broom, I open the closet door to reveal the whole line of products our company uses; environmentally- and pet-friendly all around. Never mind that they don't work as well as the regular stuff, we've got to preserve the planet! We've just got to!

In the bathroom, the faux bamboo tissue, cotton ball and soap holders seem to mock me. "Even we have our place," they whisper. "You care about the wrong things." I turn again to envy while polishing the cloudy green bottles of Aveda products. I scrub the tub solemnly, making small circles of lemon-scented cleanser, washing away dirt that isn't there.

When the time comes to pay me, she hesitates. I do not expect a tip; they are young and have money, but are smarter with it than I am. Not wanting to, I admit to myself that their life is in a lot of ways better than mine. They are capable and committed to each other and their child. But I feel very certain they do not know the truth.

"You're so quiet," she observes softly. "It was as if you weren't even here. I am embarrassed to say it's a little unnerving."

She has literally asked me to break my silence.

"It is not your dwelling, it is your home. It is not just love that is important, it is the sanctified union of two people, a man and a woman. You are meant to cherish and protect these things with all your might. These are God's gifts to you and you take them for granted! God will take care of his planet. Your job is to preserve God's idea of a family!"

I show myself out. She stands in the doorway, the check shaking slightly in her hand.

September 25, 2007

Some shocking PLANS

Did you know that Planned Parenthood, an organization that performed
244,628 abortions
in the fiscal year of 2003, referred only
1,774 pregnant women
to adoption agencies�
That's nearly 138 abortions for each adoption referral!

Please join me in working to ban this disposable life mentality!
Families Against Planned Parenthood
for Fox Valley-related news and updates or
Life Decisions International
for more national coverage and opportunities to protest.

September 22, 2007

Friday Fire

How small a foothold does the devil need to convince you to settle? It could be as easy as a well-intentioned excuse like, “I don’t want to be late for church, why don't I just skip it this one time?” Or, "Even though this song is a bit too graphic, it's still ok to listen to for fun." Or, "I don't need to project my beliefs out to the world in order to know that I believe them." It's those statements that force us, little by little, into submission. We slowly become settled into the world.

We love to imagine how God is orchestrating everything, where He is in all our actions and thoughts. And even though we should never entertain his power, we do well to be cautioned about what the devil has his hands in. He doesn't need but a tiny foothold, small opening in a door, a bit of insecurity to make you into exactly what he wants you to be. And that is to be turned from your Lord.

I've heard it said that God speaks in subtleties. Well, so does the enemy. He is so subtle that we misinterpret who is whispering those excuses in our ear, mistakenly thinking it's our "subconscious" self. Don't fool yourself; it's the enemy.

This is no petty business. We’re talking about the value of our eternal soul here and the price is very, very high. This is a battle and the enemy is ready to fight.

But you know what? So is Our Lord. And so can we be, too. We can fight subtly and boldly. Put that 'Jesus is Lord' sticker on your car. (If I had a car, my sticker would simply say, "Repent!" and I would affix one inside on the dashboard as well.) Take the opportunity to respond to a pagan remark with Biblical truth. For example, no, you don't know what she means when she claims certain traits because she's a Gemini, because that's star- and false-god worship, and undermines the authority of Our Creator. Easy as pie.

On the flipside, Christians, we must be bolder. We must cleave from the world. A friend said to me on Wednesday, "There's nothing in the Bible that says Christians are supposed to be nice! We're to be Godly and holy, but nice ain't in there once!" I say this to myself even more than to you, that you must not back down from the truth you know. This may mean you lose friends, respect of coworkers, even family. Soon you may find yourself alone with the Lord. Congratulations, now you're getting somewhere.

Settle into the Word.

September 17, 2007

Leaves turning, turning

There are so many lately. Leaves that is. New ones turning over in my mind, in my city, in my heart and in my pocketbook. One year ago and some change Nic and I were New Yorkers for that famous minute, wandering the streets with our overpriced coffee, delighting in every hot sip.

Today, as in the past week, I'm lost in memories like this, thinking hard about my past and harder about my future. Praying I won't always be one foot in, one foot out of every place I live. Praying I won't be three phone calls, two blogs and endless e-mails behind in friendships. Praying I am met with new challenges wherever I go. Praying daily and nightly.

I remarked to my sister yesterday that my life before Christ was so bizarre, but nothing in comparison to my life after Christ. She laughed. Despite my pre-determination to the contrary, it turns out she knows her Father, too. Turns out we both love Our Father a lot more than our father. There's a lot to remember and a lot to forget about that particular heartache.

In between and around all of these swirling memories are long, long days of pretty hard work. You can learn a lot about yourself and other people when you scrub their toilets for a living. Do yourself a favor and just mark my words on that one. Every now and then I like to put myself low to the ground with some work. I feel like it's easier to get on my knees when I'm already down there.

Praise God I've got a place to live in Michigan a mere five blocks from my dear husband-to-be, who will be taking the maiden voyage in his new car this weekend. God bless the man who will drive three hours back to a place he hates just because the woman he loves is still stuck there. I get a little misty even writing this, that God found me and Nic and put us together. He is so good.

How do you end a train of thought? I'll try this way, with a written expression of gratitude for all the prayers and help, and a call to worship the Father who makes it all possible. The writing, the blessings, the grace.. brilliant.

September 2, 2007

News Quip

Where does a story end?

The televised news is quick to show you the beginning of someone’s story, and subsequently what happened to them one stormy/special night. But what happened to them after that? Is the only reason to pay attention to strangers when tragedy strikes? Is there no value in "following the story" to see is any pivotal changes were made as a result of the experience?

The media defines a story as "newsworthy" only if it fulfills two requirements: 1) it contains a life-altering, tragic event and 2) it can be explained in entirety in about 45 seconds. There is a third element, though not required, that accompanying the story is a horrifying visual element.

For the media one tragic event in one's life is both the means and the end to the story. For believers a person's story is never limited to one means or one end, rather it is expected to include several means to several different ends. To the unbelieving world there are means to an end. To the believer, there are means and ends until the Kingdom comes.

A Borrowed Home

It's hard to make a "home" out of a borrowed house. Rather, part of a house. I live currently on the basement floor of a three flat house in Chicago. I don't own it, I just rent it. I suppose technically I only rent half of it since I have a roommate.

Altogether it's not a bad place, but it could be better. The fact is it's a basement, so there are quite a few "co-inhabitants" we'd rather not have around; creepy bugs that appear from behind walls, underneath the fridge and- most appalling- out of the drain! We only have three windows, none of which face a sunny direction. The result is a dark, insect harboring, sometimes moldy basement apartment.

But even if it were an amazing apartment in a better part of the city, with sunny rooms and gorgeous above ground views, it wouldn't be mine. Not entirely. Even if I paid the whole sticker price and signed the deed, it still wouldn't belong to me because nothing in this world does.

Psalm 119 says that we are strangers on earth. Psalm 24 reiterates this notion, saying that "the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." That means not only do we not own our homes, but we don't own the land they're on or the feet we stand on that land with. God owns his creation in entirety.

Perhaps that sounds unattractive to you, the idea that someone else owns us all. If you invest in the secular 'captain of your own ship' or 'master of your own destiny' concepts, it follows that you both own and direct yourself. A flattering idea, but it has a difficult outworking; who is responsible when something bad happens to you? You are, either intentionally by sending the signal for something bad to happen, or implicitly by not asking enough times for good things, or with enough intensity.

The truth is we don't want to answer to anyone for fear this means the 'good life' we have in mind for ourselves might be restricted by who we're asking to provide it.

Let's go back to Psalm 24 and the idea of God's ownership. It is through our being God's possession that He promises blessing and righteousness to us (verses 4,5). It is only those who seek Him, who aim to be pure as He desires who "ascend into the hill of the Lord" (verse 3). When we pledge unto our Lord, acknowledging and accepting His ownership of and dominion over us, He promises to bestow on us blessing. When we "lift up [our] heads" and our doors are opened to our God, the King of Glory will come in (verse 7).

Thus, if we deny being subject to Our Lord, He owes us nothing in return. Think of the richness of being surrounded by God's blessing! It would be brighter, more magnificent than any earthly dwelling could provide. Bathed in the Lord's light, that is where I want to live.

"The Father's house has many a dwelling,
And there will be a place for thee.
With perfect love His heart is welling
Who loved thee from eternity.

His precious blood the Lamb hath given
That thou might'st share the joys of heaven,
And now He calleth far and near:
'Ye weary souls, cease your repining,
Come while for you My light is shining;
Come, sweetest rest awaits you here!' "

"A Rest Remaineth for the Weary,"
by Johann S. Kunth, 1730

August 30, 2007

Trying to stand still

I used to think my life was a series of disjointed and disconnected events. Friends swirling about, boxes and cars packed moving me somewhere new, a different topic or idea as yet undiscovered being brought to the forefront of my mind, etc. I never really thought any one part was distinctly reliant or the result of any other. Every now and then, mostly in my college years, I would reflect on the most recent pieces, trying to make some sense of it all. There was, I suppose, an underlying desire for it all to have come together for a reason, a purpose. Everyone wants that, don't they? To look back on his/her life and say, 'Aha! That's what it was all about!"

But total clarity doesn't come easily to everyone. Or, to put it more accurately, one can recognize clarity for some of it, but usually not all. This is the great mystery of God's will acting upon one's life; is it all for a purpose? Is it all for the same purpose?

I ask myself these questions almost every day. Is that the same as worrying? You can be the judge if you like, I say no. I never worry about what God has in store for me because I know it's what He wants. If He wants it, it's for my own good. You could say I'm not concerned about the outcome, but the method. Specifically, which parts of my life are getting me to where He wants me to be and which ones are, for lack of a better term, arbitrary?

Here's an example
(purely fictional of course): Let's say I've been praying for the opportunity to witness to someone and simultaneously for a boost in the economic department. Now imagine that I suddenly am offered a well-paying job for a company whose employees are mostly lost. Seems like God agrees with my plea for these two things and has given them to me, right? I'm with it so far and I will witness accordingly.

But what if when I start the job I find out that, because of the nature of the job, I'll never work with the same people more than once a month and when I do, I'm forbidden to talk about 'religion' with anyone (by company policy)? Now what am I to assume by this turn of events? I could still witness (to the same person maybe twice overall) but would risk my job by doing so. Now, no one job is important to me- definitely not more important than the Gospel- except that without a job there's no money for rent or bills or bus fare to get to work and that dampers my spirit a generous amount. So should I quit the job because I can't witness? Or keep the job, knowing that all the time I will be there, I won't be able to be myself and could have been elsewhere sharing the Gospel freely? Or, is all of that trivial and I should just do the best work I can and ask for a second job or second opportunity to witness?

The real question is, if you receive what you asked for in prayer but no longer want it, are you obligated to accept it? Forgive me if I am too blunt (is that a trait the Lord will use for something??). I know what scripture says about worrying (not to) and questioning God's motives (not to). What I don't know is how to discern which circumstances I should be a part of, and which I shouldn't.

I don't think we are to trust our feelings because, especially as women, they are so easily changeable. Then again, what else do I have to go on? Most circumstances I am presented with now are new, or with new twists on old themes, and I simply don't know what to do.

We are supposed to stand still when we don't know what to do. We are supposed to let God move. What if God is moving around me all the time and I'm too scared to just stand there? If I keep moving to a different room, or house, or state, will He keep moving with me? How much can He take from me before He says, "Enough! I've given you so many opportunities and you still can't take a directive!"

He's right; He has given me everything I've asked for in prayer. The trouble is it hasn't always been the right time for that prayer to be answered (at least not according to me). I don't mean to give an excuse for myself. I just haven't known how to proceed. Sometimes I think He's given me too much and that's what makes it so difficult to choose.

August 22, 2007

A prayer for the newly deployed

As some of you may know, both of my brothers-in-law will be, by next week, deployed to Iraq. One is going for his first time, the other as a wounded veteran of the Iraq war.
These two men are among countless soldiers who will soon be deployed
for their first, second, third and fourth tours.
They are not all believers, so they will not all be praying for themselves and their units' safety; will you join me in a time of prayer for them this week?

Our Father,
we ask your protection over the soldiers and their families.
We ask Your Spirit to empower and comfort them,
we ask Your Son to redeem them as they engage in
spiritual battle the likes of which they have never known.

We know the enemy is lurking where they are going.
But we believe that You are the only Supreme Lord of us all
and, because of that, Your will shall be done
and Your glory will be seen.
You use wicked nations to teach us;
let the Iraq battle teach the troops and all of us to turn from wickedness.

We pray for the protection and presence
of Your Spirit and of Jesus Christ
in the daily lives of the soldiers' families back home.
We pray that they turn to You in their distress,
for You alone are what they need.
May they all look upon the Cross daily,
as we all should.
We pray this in Jesus' holy name,

August 16, 2007

Thursday's thought

“Perhaps the last time you heard ‘piety’ or ‘pious’ used… it was in relationship to this familiar, dismissive statement which refers to the pious person being so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly use at all. But the fact of the matter is, if we’re honest, the reverse of that is a far more pressing issue. I haven’t really come across anyone in the past few weeks…so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use. But I have looked at myself in the mirror and found myself to be so earthly minded that I am of no heavenly use.”

Alistair Begg

August 14, 2007

The Secret Garden

At small group a few weeks ago, we were discussing Corinthians 13 and the different ways we know God loves and cares for us. God has, of course, many ways He shows His love, many of which we either don't notice or disregard because they are the 'wrong kind,' meaning, not what we thought we needed. Sure enough, He knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves. How do I know this? Because He has never given me what I thought I deserved, but always what He knew I sincerely longed for.

I always wanted a garden like my Mom's. It wraps all around my childhood home, blossoms early in the spring and is transformed by hard work and God's hand into something new every year. Ok, I never wanted anything that extravagant. Maybe just a little plot of land where I could grow flowers and some vegetables. And have a tiny birdbath. And a couple of bleeding heart trees, but that's all! Like I said, nothing big. Just something I can grow into. I never thought I was entitled to have one, but I secretly hoped someday, when I was a 'grown up,' I'd find that perfect spot of free soil.

As a 'grown up,' I've moved around a lot. In fact, I haven't lived in the same apartment or house for more than a year since my parents' house. Every year since high school graduation has taken me to a new city, state, dorm room, apartment, house, condo and, unfortunately, not a plot of land big enough for a garden.

The winds seemed to shift when my roommate found our current place. It has a huge backyard (by Chicago standards of course!) and after a approving nod from the landlords I was ready to get my plant on. But when we moved in it was already October, and there was no time for sowing any seeds. I'd have to wait until spring.

Winter seemed to last forever this year. I can't imagine how you senior gardeners can stand waiting for that thaw. I was going crazy in the apartment, practically clawing to get outside. Finally the ground was soft and the sun returned. I ventured outside with my spoon and fork (yup, no real tools) to dig up and dig in. I looked around the property. Then circled again. Didn't I remember there being some soil? Somewhere?

A small patch in the front flower box, some in the back around the pear tree and that's all she wrote. Not known for giving up easily on a seemingly hopeless situation, I worked the crud out of that soil, weeded like a madwoman and planted about twenty different kinds of seeds in my ten feet (not consecutive) of garden. Carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, snap peas, wildflowers, squash, alyssum, gypsophilia. I toiled every spare moment I had and tended it all very carefully and lovingly. I even prayed that God would be kind and let my plants grow. Two months later I had...

Nothing! Not one sprig of a stem of a leaf. Not one tuft of a tassel of a tuber. You get the idea. Feeling finally beaten out of patience, I said to heck with the stupid thing! I'm not going to water, weed or even look at these dumb spots of soil! You're dirt to me now, I tell you. Dirt!

I felt discouraged and drained, wishing my backyard was not just well-kept but filled with beautiful blossoms and ripe veggies. The only thing I didn't stop doing was pray. Maybe that seems silly, to pray for growth... but if it can work for me personally, it can work for my garden. "God," I prayed, "Please let something grow. Even if it's just one sprout, I'll take it and nurture it and praise you for it."

One week later I came back out to my garden. Everywhere I looked there were sprouts, new little flowers opening up at different times of the day and vegetables bleating for the sunshine. The most surprising thing was the morning glories; I never even planted the things, they just grew and grew and spread to every nook and fence link they could find. I transplanted about ten of them to an old, dead shrub and they multiplied and climbed up those gnarled branches like nobody's business! To further my plant project was an upstairs neighbor, a self-proclaimed plant-killer, who brought me all her dying flora and I nursed them all back to health. Then, she let me keep them!

Still I wonder, why didn't the plants grow? Maybe because I'm a new gardener I miscalculated how much to plant, when to water. Maybe I sowed the seeds too early and the soil wasn't ready to be worked yet. Or perhaps it was because I started to feel like I had earned my garden because I worked so hard for it, maybe that's why nothing grew right away.

Reflecting on my impatience, I understand a little better now that God does not have a seed of it in Him.

Below are the fruits of His labor.

Purple colias, hand-me-down from the girl upstairs.

When I got this it was one tiny stem in a bowl of water.

Our pear tree, which I had no hand in whatsoever!

Carrot patch.

Tomatoes in the only sunny spot.

The tiny tomato harvest.

The now infamous morning glories.

A second fence full of them.

Climbing up the trellis.

Does anyone recognize these rocks?

July 26, 2007

Bumper Sticker Politics

    Call me a cynic, but I'm already getting discouraged about the 2008 election.

    I know that it's probably too early to say anything definitive about the candidates except what we've known for a long time about some of them. I also know that this whole election drag-out fight is going to last awhile and will, undoubtedly, become dirtier and more revealing as time marches on. But those issues revolve around the candidates, who are not- at least not currently- my concern. I am most troubled by the voters.

    When you don't have a car or much money, your transportation becomes your own feet a lot of the time. You walk to the store, you walk to the library, you walk around town pondering your own existence... It was on one of these regular trips that Nic and I passed what has become an infamous bumper sticker gingerly placed on the back of a car:

"I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians, because they are very much unlike your Christ. --Gandhi"

I passed it first, rolled my eyes, then wished I hadn't because it signaled Nic to notice it, too. His comment was refreshingly terse: "If Gandhi likes Christ, then Gandhi likes Christ who says Gandhi is a sinner. If Gandhi likes Christ who says Gandhi is a sinner, then isn't Gandhi a Christian? And if he is a Christian, he can't not like Christians!"* And we continued our walk.

    Two days later that bumper sticker is still bothering me. Why? Because I can say for sure the person who carefully stuck that nonsense on his/her car doesn't know it's totally illogical, doesn't probably realize that Gandhi- despite his incontestably peaceful demeanor and public record- is a person who believes cows should be deified and provided for while his fellow Indians starve, i.e. a whack job. Worst of all? This bumper sticker displayer of lunacy might actually be a voter.

Here are some more equally upsetting stickers I've seen in my neighborhood:

COEXIST - spelled out by a crescent moon, an "ohm," a cross for the 'T'... you get the idea

COMMIT RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY - I've always wanted to stalk this person's car, then non-randomly ask them what's so great about random kindness? How about practicing intentional kindness? Furthermore, what in the name of Pousse Pousse is the point of a senseless act of beauty? In fact, what is a'senseless act of beauty' and when is the last time the car owner committed one?

DEFEND AMERICA- DEFEAT BUSH - First of all, we had the chance to defeat him. Actually we had two chances. We either blew it, or some citizens really did want to keep him in office. Either way, get over it! He's in his last year.

    Time for a confession: I used to have that last bumper sticker on my car (about 3 1/2 years ago, before the re-election). Ah, but this completely illustrates my point about the type of person who would drive around advertising their dissent! Who was I at the time? A 22-year-old smart aleck, fresh out of liberal college (with a useless degree in modern art) thus ripe for complaint. I was the most involved in the political realm then as I ever have been: I registered voters, I knocked on doors asking for petition signatures and attended campaign meetings. All taking place outside from October to January, during which months we experienced some of the harshest Minnesota temperatures I can remember.

    I worked hard to convince people that my opinion on Bush and his administration were fair, honest and right. Not to mention conveniently diverse! You want to talk about how Bush is ignoring the ________ (blacks, women, college students, immigrants, etc)? Have we got a picket sign for you!

    I was shown how to dismantle any argument by simply inserting a clever quip about the most recent Bush foible during a meet-the-press session. Discredit the President, that was job #1. And it was accomplished primarily with soundbites.

    But when all was said and done, what did I know about the candidates I promoted for the 2004 election, except that they weren't George Bush Jr.? Nada. That's right folks, not one iota of information that would convince anyone of the legitimacy of my candidate. With one well-placed question from a more informed voter, I could have been swept out of the arena. Fortunately I never encountered anyone with more zest for persuasion than I had.

    Fast forward to late July of 2007. Ours is a culture of soundbites. Bumper stickers and taglines on t-shirts have replaced actual human conversation. Who am I? Look at my shirt, it will tell you.

    Let's entertain the possibility that American voters have always had short attention spans and fifteen-second news installments are enough for them to feel aware of what's going on "politically." In that case, American voters are to blame for their own short-sightedness as far as the President- or any other elected official who fails to deliver- goes. The responsibility of the individual American voter is to seek out multiple news sources so as to gain a more complete picture of politics.

    However, the media is just as much to blame for its reliance on short clips which are then elaborated and speculated into full-blown ideologies. Sometimes a newsperson's gut feeling about a politician is correct. I'm obliged to say that when that happens it is because the newsperson has an innate sense of what is right, not because they got lucky. Though it must feel like that to some newspeople who, for one reason or another, just keep getting it wrong about politicians' motives. I can't help but mention Laura Ingraham here. Don't get me wrong; I love the woman. But she does rely heavily on soundbites from politicians and newspersonnel, which means she often gets carried away with what a clip may have indicated about someone's stance before she even knows the context of the quote. I've heard her many times, after speculating about a clip, ask her producer where the person was at the time he/she said it. The great thing about Ingraham is that she uses such a breadth of media sources and assuages it all with real-time, personal interviews.

    What's my point with all this? I'm not attempting to transfer my dissatisfaction with American voters' initiative (or lack thereof) nor do I seek to blame the media for poorly representing who, what, where, when and how the events of our world unfold, satisfying themselves with ending the night's broadcast (or cover story) with a memorable slogan. I'm trying to encompass everyone in this, so I conclude by urging you to visit several websites, read major newspapers, scan periodicals, listen to talk radio and talk face-to-face with other voters before you make any decisions about the 2008 presidential election. Seek out what the other side is saying about their people, too, by visiting sites dedicated to the destruction of the American Christian nuclear family! (Oops, was that too strong?) I've listed several sites here for you to reference.

    Most importantly, make decisions as the God-fearing person you are. As much as I pretend that I am above most of the decisions 'normal' people have to make here, He is above all... especially me. Thank you and goodnight.

Useful political links:

Project Vote Smart
Right Wing News
The Washington Post
Numbers USA
Indecision 2008
National Review
One News Now
Rasmussen Reports

*For a more complete version of Nic's argument, click here.

July 12, 2007

On boldness...

"Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert;
plenty of light but nothing to look at."

John Stott

May 5, 2007

Cleaning Up the Wedding

by Dr. William Willimon, a Century editor at large, is minister to the university and professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. This article appeared in the Christian Century June 6-13, 1979, p.653. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission.

April may be “the cruelest month” for poets like T. S. Eliot, but I’ve found that June is rough on preachers. Consider Ralph Wade, pastor of the Friendswood Baptist Church in Indiana, who united Denise Golay and David Whitfield in marriage. Ralph went by the book, but Denise and David had other ideas. Their wedding bulletin explained it this way:

As many of you know, Denise has an avid interest in the obedience training of dogs, and David has more than a passing interest in photography. The relationship now shared by the Bride and Groom grew from these two interests. With this in mind they requested the presence of the “Special Guests.” Your cooperation in observing their presence as part of this service is appreciated.

Well, you guessed it. After the singing of the theme from Benji (“I Feel Love”) came the “Entrance of Special Guests,” and in walked Brujean’s Trace of Beauty, Sun Dance’s Top Dee-O-Gee, and We-X-L, who strolled down the aisle in canine dignity and took their seats on the front pew. Then Tim Fentz, cousin of the groom, sang “I Want This Lady (to Be My Wife),” a composition he had written for the occasion. I have never met Ralph Wade, but somehow I think I know how he must have felt as he stood there, in his black suit with red carnation boutonniere, Bible in hand, watching the “Entrance of Special Guests.” We don’t need the horror of Robert Altman’s film A Wedding to remind us that June can be the cruelest month for clergy.

Whenever conversation among a group of ministers shifts to “my most embarrassing moments in ministry, the talk inevitably centers on weddings. Phrases like “pagan display,” “abusing the church,” and “disgusting extravagance” are uttered to describe some of the weddings we are called on to “perform.” To those who are not part of the “professional clergy,” it may seem strange that we priests should regard happy events like weddings as among the most unhappy things we do.

But these people have never stood with prayer book and Bible at 6:00 AM, in subfreezing weather on the edge of the surf in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to oversee the vows of two grinning post-adolescents who plead to be married there because “that’s where we first made love.” I wore long underwear under my black suit and prayed not only that “God may bless your marriage and establish your home in peace” but also that Bishop Tullis would not happen to be out driving at that hour and catch me in the act of matrimonial license.

Nor can the average layperson empathize with how a friend of mine, who has a master’s degree in counseling, felt when he attempted premarital counseling with a 75-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman. When he raised objections about their age difference, the prospective groom merely said, “Old wine has the most kick,” and the bride indignantly responded, “Strom Thurmond did it, and look where he is.” For such ministerial moments as these, plainly more than 2 master’s degree in counseling is needed.


I know there are those who claim to have certain ministerial standards or liturgical principles that protect them from these embarrassing nuptial episodes. I have a friend who brags loudly about the rigor of his premarital procedures: a minimum of four hours of counseling, physiological instruction, birth-control advice, standardized personality tests, and theological lectures. For him, this is all evidence of his professional integrity in regard to weddings, though I point out that he has had as many divorces in his congregation as I had in mine. The few follow-up studies available on the effectiveness of premarital counseling, such as one by Theron Neese of Columbia Seminary, seem to indicate that the practice is more effective in dealing with the insecurities and doubts of the pastor than with those of the bride and groom. Premarital counseling may contribute little to the success of a marriage, but it certainly helps to assuage the guilt feelings of the clergy.

When I consider my own earnest efforts to “clean up” the weddings in which I participate -- the counseling, the rigid liturgical rules, the list of proscribed music -- I sometimes wonder if these are more for than for the bride and groom. Usually I attempt to justify my actions in terms of theological or liturgical principles. I have argued to the death with more than one couple that Wagner’s “Wedding March” is not religious music.” But it still sounds like religious music to them -- church is the only place where they have ever heard it played.

In my more honest moments I admit that my most basic objection to many of the weddings I get caught in is not that they are theologically unsound but that they are, to use a good old southern expression, tacky. It is embarrassing for a person of my impeccable good taste, my artistic interest, my theological training, my liturgical commitments to get caught in the midst of the blue tuxedos with red velvet collars, the brides with their artificial bouquets, the overdressed mothers and sniffing fathers, and the cousins with their guitars crooning “I Want This Lady.” Many times have I concluded a service with the traditional “Those whom God hath joined together let not man put asunder” wondering about the wisdom of divine judgment, to say nothing of God’s good taste in these alleged matchings.


Which leads me to a hypothesis: having observed the determined efforts of pastors to “clean up” weddings and make them respectable, dignified and holy, I have come to wonder if weddings make many of us so uncomfortable because they judge, as do few pastoral activities, the inadequacy of our pastoral theology.

A Christian wedding is a service of worship, an expression of faith, a high and holy moment in our life together. Conscientious, responsible pastors must do everything possible -- careful planning, sensitive counseling, congregational guidelines -- to make the wedding the worship service that it ought to be. But a wedding is much more than a “spiritual” event. Holy matrimony deals first with God and God’s church, but it deals also with a particular woman and a particular man who come together “in the presence of God and these witnesses” to ask for our blessing to have sex, make a home together, conceive and nurture children, be faithful and ask forgiveness when unfaithful, disagree over the budget, argue over politics, and have sex.

Sometimes I wonder if, amid all the high-sounding talk, the flowers and lace, and the tea cakes at the reception, we forget that we are dealing with a very earthly, very human, utterly prosaic endeavor. In fact, I wonder if part of the appeal of the words, the flowers, the lace, the cakes -- or, for that matter, of the liturgy, the premarital counseling, and the minister’s earnest appeal for “seriousness” and “dignity” -- may be a complex rationalizing away of this embarrassingly human event, in short, weddings are an embarrassment because they reveal the limitations of our tidy, virginal, whitewashed, pristine theologies which cannot yet deal with incarnation.

Let’s face it: standing there in our black suits or robes, Bibles or prayer books in hand, looking earnest and serious, we are up to our necks in the most carnal of incarnations. Sacraments are always scandalous in their materiality. We want to talk abstractly about agape, but the bride and groom are all eros. And beside them stand a nervous mother and a befuddled father and a cousin strumming on a guitar and an inebriated best man, all of whom instinctively sense that the union of man and woman is too great a mystery to confront without all the help we can get. It’s romantic love here, not the sanctimonious caritas or agape we gnostics prefer. Romantic, erotic love is always tacky -- full of poetry by Kahlil Gibran and moonlight serenades and artificial flowers -- and it does not last. But it is with such romantic mush that most of us begin to love, and at least it’s a beginning. Anders Nygren to the contrary notwithstanding, our English language may reveal more about how most of us actually experience the Greek agape, caritas, eros and philia when it simply mixes them all up and calls them “love.”


I submit that our chief pastoral duty at weddings is not to make sure that the bride and groom “know what they’re getting into” (did you when you got married?) or that they are suitably matched and able to keep a lifetime promise of love and fidelity (nobody is able -- that’s why we ask for grace) or that they know the real meaning of marriage (even bachelor Paul had the good sense to call it musterion). The real meaning of marriage may have as much to do with the crooning cousins, flowers and upset stomachs, arguments over how to cut the cake, and nervous fathers as it does with all our theological rationalizations of this most delightfully irrational of human acts. I submit that the real pastoral task is to stand up boldly, even if embarrassedly, in the middle of all this and dare to proclaim as clearly and sensitively and faithfully as we know how the gospel of Jesus Christ: that these tacky, romantic, transitory moments are redeemed by his loving presence in our midst and thereby given eternal significance. Marriage is “an honorable estate” not because it’s all that spiritual, ethereal or heavenly. Marriage is beautiful because even as it was “adorned and beautified by his presence in Cana of Galilee,” Christ deems our unions worthy of his presence today. It is his blessing, his challenge, his judgment, his commission which we pronounce over the seeming chaos of it all.

Our God, thank God, does not wait until we get our lives cleaned up and aesthetically acceptable, until we know what we’re getting into, until all the psychological factors indicate that we are ready to mate, and until we figure out the real meaning of what it means to love another human being forever. Our God -- the one who began his ministry at, of all places, a wedding in Cana of Galilee -- entered the flesh, the tackiness and transitoriness of it all and said, strange as it might seem to us of little faith, that our human unions are of divine consequence.

April 20, 2007

Nothing short of inspired

Christians are the
that do not claim

veetka copyright 2007.

April 13, 2007


This has been a topsy-turvy week. I quit my job, my client is moving into a nursing home, my coworker is on drugs and I'm still- because I may always find myself here- in a financial bind. And that's just the work-related realm...

Personally: Nic got accepted into grad school, I may have to object at a friend's wedding, my new believers class is literally booming with talk of revival and meanwhile I haven't talked to my sister in Germany for nearly a month.

Vocationally: Ideas for the book I'm rumored to be writing are flowing in like honey and solidifying like a pristine Jello mold. Copyright!

Politically: I've actually become interested in politics again after being turned on to both Glenn Beck and the Grassfire organization. Did you know there are conservative activists?! I never knew such a type existed, let alone actually had a long-term, family- and God-centered agenda!

I feel like I'm on fire myself. Just a little bit, just a spark, because I've got so much more to learn, but what do I do with it?

Five years ago my action would have been to tell everyone what I know about the world until, two weeks later, I'd be so exhausted I couldn't keep the fire burning. I was a champion of causes, crusades and [cringe] "creating dialogue" between people. Don't get it twisted either, I was darn good at educating people onto my side. Five-years-ago me was fired up about this or that, but ultimately she died out because her fire really only burned for herself.

On Wednesday of this week I came face-to-face with 'five-years-ago me' and she was ugly, so today I say to that earlier version, "Get thee behind me Satan!" and I'm not afraid to say it. You want to question whether it's good for my self-esteem to call attention to my own sin like that? You want to talk about hellfire, damnation and the very real, very hot debate going on in many peoples' hearts between "serve yourself" and "serve God?" You want to try and convince me that my God isn't the holy, mighty, able, faithful, loving and keeping God that I know He is? I've got three words for you; bring it on.

I've known many people in my lifetime and I've burned a lot of bridges. This post, and some of the circumstances mentioned therein, may be the sparks that ends up burning up even more. But I will go on record today, in writing, saying that you can call me crazy, or fanatic, or confused, or naive, or uneducated; you can let the devil whisper into your ear that I think I'm better than you, or that this is just another one of my misguided phases of devotion. You can say whatever you like, but you will not convince me that this awesome, powerful fire burning within me should be used for anything but to advance the gospel of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"Take My yoke upon you and
learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest
for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

April 11, 2007

Wednesday one-liners, volume 1, line 2

People want to believe that the problem is
anything but
and the solution is
anything but

copyright veetka 2007

April 4, 2007

Wednesday one-liners, volume 1, line 1



must be greater than our


one-liners copyright veetka 2007.

March 25, 2007


Our Lord is the glorious end,
never our means.

Please watch this post immediately.

In the meantime this blog will be experiencing an extended pause as its author recommits herself to the Lord.
To be continued...

March 15, 2007

Faithwriters update!

I checked my e-mail today, seeing I had a comment about my "Gown and a Groom" article on and, upon reading the comment, saw I had placed 8th in the intermediate level. The commenter said this is a "fantastic achievement," since it's the first time I've ever entered the challenge. Just wanted to share the good news with everyone!


March 6, 2007

A Gown and Two Grooms

We opened the front door, our eyes widening at the dazzling array of ornate French slippers, sparkling hair combs and soft veils, like sheets of spun gossamer, rippling gently from the drafts that plague this ancient house. I’ve been in many and I can tell you, this was no ordinary bridal shop.

I was there to try on- and hopefully purchase- my bridal gown. Experience had taught me not to peruse for this kind of dress alone, so this time I brought my whole entourage: my mother, mother-in-law, her daughter and my aunt. We were shown upstairs to a private boudoir, complete with three-sided mirrors and pedestal for me to model from. Our hostess, an ancient woman herself, seated my mother and I closest to her, and everyone else along the opposite wall. “Let me tell you what kind of bride I see you as…” she began.

My mind started to wander, and panic a little. She should be asking what kind of bride I think I am, I thought. Am I traditional? Modern? Romantic? Earthy? Bossy? She doesn’t know a thing about me!

But what I am most of all is patient, so I hear what she has to say. She gets through her absolutely dead-on synopsis of the “type of bride I am” and skirted away to choose some gowns for me. As I waited, I pondered, “What kind of groom is my fiancé?”

I thought back to when we first started dating. He was kind, he was patient, he lavished me with attention and he loved to talk (still does)! Above all this he is a believer, which reveals so many more wonderful qualities of his character. He’s a brilliant man and I couldn’t have chosen better if he was made-to-order. But that’s only one of the grooms I have.

My other groom is my Savior, Jesus Christ. In a lot of ways, the things I like about my fiancé are mere reflections of Jesus’ character. I think back to when I first met Him. He was kind, he was patient, he lavished me with attention and he loved to talk (admittedly I do most of the talking). I love Him more than I could ever explain. My fiancé knows it, too, and he isn’t threatened. He loves me because I love Jesus.

My hostess brings out an armada of gowns, wrenching me out of my romantic daydream. I try on two gowns amidst the oohs and aahs of my female companions. They all love the first one, hate the second. I’m having a hard time telling them that I really don’t like either one. I’ve been building this dress in my mind for weeks, compiling sleeve styles, necklines, embellishments and bustling type. Now, standing in this fairytale shop surrounded by visions of perfection in lace and tulle, I call on the only thing I know I couldn’t have chosen by myself, and wouldn’t change for all the beauty of the world- my Savior.

I thought about how He brought me out of the life I had before, in which I picked and chose whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I didn’t like someone’s comment, they were gone from my life. I didn’t want to do this or that, I walked away from it. The talents I had were wasted, friendships I cherished, destroyed. I thought about how He went over every little detail of my life and compiled His own idea of who I should be. He simplified me, and I can’t thank Him enough.

You need to simplify this whole wedding thing, I told myself. The dress you get married in doesn’t matter; it’s the commitment you’ll be making in that dress that’s important. I recommitted myself to Christ right there in that shop, telling Him I would never let the details of this wedding cloud my vision of Him.

And when I opened my eyes I saw my hostess holding the very dress I’ll be wearing on that day, standing at the front of the church with my two grooms.

February 26, 2007

How do we love thee?

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13

I think this verse is frequently misinterpreted. I saw it used in a church bulletin this week as a scriptural justification for loving a certain group of new members (with a highly questionable lifestyle) in a congregation. It heavily implied that we should allow our faith in the Lord and our hope that He can bring them away from their sin come distant cousins to our simply loving them. Love every part of them, the bulletin said, even their sin.
But God does not love sin. In fact, He hates it. This is the old question: how do we love people without also allowing their sin to be loved?

Of course we should love other people. Jesus calls us to do this. But should our love for other s ever be greater than the love for our Lord? Never. So, when it comes time to love others, let me always remember Christ first. His desire for me to follow Him is key; my obedience (or lack of) to Christ is a guide for how I should - and do- treat others. It does not mean love others less, but love Jesus first. This is how we align with the Lord against sin, but continue to love our neighbors as ourselves. We, too, have sin in our hearts.

If my aim is to show Jesus my love for Him by serving other people, I have it backwards. I must love Him first, and use His love as my example of how to love others. Jesus loved everyone- even the Pharisees- but He did not condone all they did. Neither did He judge them. Rather, He told them who He was (He is our Savior).

The answer to, "Who is Jesus?" will be our answer to, "How should I love others?"

February 25, 2007

Women of the counter culture, unite! (pt. I)

I never cease to be amazed at how many women in the body of Christ feel the way I do about the perceived necessity of using the degrees we've earned. Why, oh why, do we not give ourselves a well-deserved nod of approval at that remarkable accomplishment (face it, in our minute-to-minute culture whenever someone puts four years' focused time into any one thing, it's an accomplishment) and then go on to pursue our Godly, womanly talents and gifts? The following is an excerpt from a Revive our Hearts listener, commenting on the importance of not only becoming a Proverbs 31 woman, but not cow-towing to the “feminism” (which is anti-feminine) of our day and age.

"Having been in the generation that came to adulthood in the 50's-early 60's, I didnt ever think or believe there was a more important job than caring for my family , being a provider in my home. Many of my peers went on to college and after finishing believed they "needed to use" their degree.

I's like the mother who goes back to work when her baby is 6 weeks old. Years later, she will know she cannot go back and recoup that time lost. A division of labor is spoken of in the Bible. I believe the Bible teaches the man shall provide, while the woman cares and tends the family. We have moved far away from this Biblical standard for families and we wonder what has happened to the family.
We are buying bigger houses, charging on credit cards- restaurant bills, latest clothing fashion, vacations, fancy birthday parties for our children, and then believe "we have to work."

There are so many lasting gifts you can give your family. A haven in their home.
When they are grown, they will not remember the clothes, entertainment, etc, your salary may provide. They will remember the times they spent as a family and what their home life was like. The comment that Barbara Bush made to the Wellesley graduates, "At the end of your life you will not wish you had made more business deals, you will wish you had spent more time with your family."

February 21, 2007

When I meet Jesus

Nic asked me once, "When you're face-to-face with Jesus, what will you say?" I replied, "I'll probably sing." When I don't know how to pray, I sing. I wrote this today.

Oh, Lord, I've a long way to go.
The mountain is high and the valley is low.
Yet I continue to climb, through the dirt and the snow.
Oh, Lord, I've a long way to go.

Father God, I am trying to keep faith.
Forgive my impatience, but it's so hard to wait.
The devil tempts me with ways out and I take the bait.
Father God, I am trying to keep faith.

Loving Christ, You've given all I need:
A home, a family, your word and your deed.
So why do I still hang my head and weep?
Loving Christ, You're all that I need.

Spirit strong, you're wherever I be.
Your presence encourages me.
Do you hear my prayer? I long for thee.
Spirit strong, you're wherever I be.

Blessed Lord, I've a long way to go.
I'll follow you anywhere, though the end I do not know.
I will ask, knock and seek you so
When I'm called home, with me You'll go.

Oh Lord, I've a long way to go.

February 20, 2007

Taking the initiative against drudgery

"Arise, shine..." (Isaiah 60:1)

When it comes to taking the initiative against drudgery, we have to take the first step as though there were no God. There is no point in waiting for God to help us- He will not. But once we arise, immediately we find He is there. Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue- a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. If we will arise and shine, drudgery will be divinely transformed.

Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. Drudgery is work that is far removed from anything we think of as ideal work. It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery- washing fishermen's feet. He then said to them, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14).

The inspiration of God is required if drudgery is to shine with the light of God upon it. In some cases the way a person does a task makes that work sanctified and holy forever. It may be a very common, everyday task, but after we have seen it done, it becomes different. When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer's body has become "the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Taken from, "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers.

February 10, 2007

Bathing with the Enemy

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Do you believe you were bought with His blood? Believe it or not, you were. And as something is bought, it then belongs to the buyer. You belong to Christ. Yet so many of us spend our days speaking out on His behalf, then going home and washing off His blood. Do you wash it off? Consider the following:

* Can you speak out of both sides of your mouth? I can. I love to give advice, especially scripturally-based, and then walk in the opposite direction I just pointed to. I wash off the blood when I second-guess His advice (the Word).

* Do you plan for the future? Do you know it is certain? I do! I've been whispered to what my future holds. Who whispered it? I don't know, but it sounded good! Forget about the details of today; what am I really building up for? To be used for? I wash off the blood when I don't receive my daily bread.

* Is there a "public you" and a "private you?" Are you vocal of the Victory in your spare time, or your home time, or to your public audience, only to find yourself growing very, very quiet when your faith is challenged publicly? Anyone who knows me knows of my chameleon-like nature; don't I love it to appeal to His side when it appeals to me? Yup. I put on the Armor with purpose before I set out for the day... then I put on a coat, hat, gloves, boots and purse over it. I wash off the blood when I back down from my faith.

* Do you secretly wish there was a way you could prove how clean you could be, if only the circumstances were right? Do you feel a little jealousy toward those for whom it seems easy to accept being seen washed in the blood every single moment? Completely humbling yourself to Him is hard. Don't tell me it isn't. Then again, it's a joy to be humble, to relenquish the control over my life! I wash off the blood when I believe I can be clean without the Blood.

I don't know how to end this. All I can say is, if you think this isn't a BATTLE you are fooling yourself. Put on your armor.

Measure by measure

Proverbs 31 and Ecclesiastes 3:

A wife of noble character:

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak.

Lord, commit to my heart your words so that I may be the woman you want me to be. It is so hard to be that woman, but I desire nothing more. Let me me like the plants lying in wait for spring; keep me in wait for you, don't let me be hasty and lose the way, bring me up from the earth when you know it is the time I can thrive. And if I should be brought up and grow, don't then let me seek to water myself. Watch over me all the days of my life. Thank you and in the name of your Son I pray, Amen.


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