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Dec 19, 2012 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Waiting Like Simeon

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”  Luke 2:25-26

My roommates and I have been reading through the book of Luke in our “family” devotional times. We were especially struck when we got to the story of Simeon. In Luke 2, after a fairly extensive detailing of Christ’s birth, we meet an elderly man who has been waiting for decades to see the Christ. Our only insight into Simeon’s character is contained in one short verse – “he was righteous and devout” and above all, patient. It is beautiful to see Simeon’s long suffering concluded as he holds the eight day old child in his arms and prophesies, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)  After another short interaction with Mary and Joseph, Simeon disappears from the scene. After reading this story, I wondered why Luke chose to include it in his thorough recording of history. Furthermore, how should we read it?  Is it just a nice story of an aging, probably ailing, man who was granted one last wish?  Or is it something I can relate to today?
Obviously, I lean towards the latter option because everyone is waiting for something. A job. A spouse. A child. A home. A healed relationship. Forgiveness. Health. Peace. We can all either wait patiently, trusting in the goodness of God who loves his children and delights to give them good gifts, or we can become increasingly bitter as our time of waiting grows from months, to years, to decades. This is one reason why I think Simeon’s story has been recorded in Scripture. He sought the Lord yearning for the promise given to him to be fulfilled. Simeon was not content to wait passively or to let his promise go unfulfilled. He was unwilling to settle for less than God’s best and tenaciously waited for as long as it took.
But a second crucial aspect of his story is that Simeon recognized when the promise was fulfilled, even in ways he might not have expected. He may not have known that he was waiting for a newborn to be the Lord’s salvation and a light to the Gentiles. Simeon may have expected someone with a little more “experience” to provide the fulfillment to such a lofty promise. But Simeon, constantly patient and faithful, recognized the baby Jesus as the answer to all his prayers.


I too am waiting and I too want to be unwilling to settle for less than God’s best for me and, perhaps most difficult of all, I too want to recognize it when He provides. Lately, my eyes have been enlightened to the blessings in my life. Though my life is not what I imagined it would look like, I can see the provision of the Lord in the midst of it all and that His plan is the best for me. I am able to work, still pay my bills, write regularly, and volunteer my extra time ministering at my church – which has been fun, exciting, and rewarding beyond what I could have imagined. No, I’m not where I expected because I don’t have a husband, or children, or a house, or a long-term plan, but I am recognizing the amazing provision of the Lord in my unexpected circumstances. I hope that you too can be encouraged by the life of Simeon as you wait on the Lord. Wait actively, be unwilling to settle, and keep on the lookout for gifts and blessings –  even in the most unexpected ways!

Waiting for (and Recognizing!) God’s Best,
Kelly

Dec 18, 2012 - Devotional, Exegesis, My Story    No Comments

Spiritual Chappiness

When I fly, I do nothing but sit for hours and hours and yet I am exhausted when I finally arrive.  How does that happen?

My friend, Tracy, and I discussed this phenomenon and described the feeling of being dehydrated, dry, sore, and tired after flying.  We decided that it was akin to having chapped lips, except after flying we exhibited a full-body chap.  Throughout our discussion, the term was shortened to “chappy”.  Perhaps you have felt this way before.  Since my return last airplane flight, I haven’t felt physically chappy, but I have felt so spiritually.  For some reason it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me yet.  Perhaps it is a combination of the warm weather, my  busy work schedule, and the fact that I have been done Christmas shopping for some time now, but I just don’t feel as excited for Christmas as I usually do.  I remembered a lecture given by one of my professors in which he said one of our major jobs as Believers in Jesus was to keep the familiar from becoming common.  In other words, we cannot read the Bible as if it is just another book because it is not!  God is always at work and I forget that when I read the Bible without a sense of awe at His work.  I sometimes fall into the trap of reading the Christmas story as old news, which greatly contributes to the chappiness of my heart.  I leave you with two passages.  The first is the Biblical cure for spiritual chappiness.

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
  my soul thirsts for you;
 my flesh faints for you,
 as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
 beholding your power and glory.
  Because your steadfast love is better than life,
 my lips will praise you.
  So I will bless you as long as I live;
 in your name I will lift up my hands.” 

Psalm 63: 1-4

And the second is my prescription to keep the familiar from becoming too common.  May we never be complacent that Christ came to earth as a man to seek the lost.  But continually be in amazement of the great lengths he went through to save his own.  Read the following slowly and it just could astound you!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   John 1:1-5 & 14

Dec 12, 2012 - Devotional, My Story    No Comments

Done with To Do Lists

I’m done with to do lists.

I think I keep 3M, the maker of Post-its in business single-handedly. I have oodles of lists all running concurrently. One for work tasks. One for home and chores. One for bills. One for the blog. One for Christmas presents, and shipping dates, and wish lists. You get the idea.

My list-aholicism is bad all the time. But I’m worst at Christmas.

Why do I do this? What will happen if I let something slip off the list? The list making is fine. It’s the feeling that I can’t let anything slip that needs to go. The world will go on even if I don’t get to making the chocolate covered pretzels for my neighbors that currently ranks atop one of my lists! But sometimes I don’t believe this. I think that if I stop working, that the world will end! That my effort is somehow woven into the very fabric of the universe. That I must work and never stop.

This is a lie!

Now don’t get me wrong — working is a good and God-blessed thing. But confusing my work with His work is wrong and dangerous. God works. He is the ultimate worker. Nothing ever falls off of His Divine To Do list.

In that truth I can find rest. With or without chocolate covered pretzels!

Dec 11, 2012 - Devotional    1 Comment

Pixar and Gnosticism

Lately I’ve been ruminating on gnosticism. I know, I’m weird. Probably most people don’t even know what that is, but the fact of the matter is, it’s all around us. What is even weirder is how watching Ratatouille gave clarity to my ruminations about gnosticism!

Gnosticism is a pre-Christian idea involving a supreme Archon, eons, progressive emanations from the Archon, Sophia, secret knowledge and other confusing things not totally relevant to our current discussion. What is important is how gnosticism plays out practically. Gnosticism causes people to divide the body and the spirit into separate realms entirely. Then gnostics elevate the spirit and denigrate the body. With this worldview in mind, people must choose how to interact with the body and with creation as a whole. They have two choices: either to become licentious and indulgent, throwing themselves into the realm of the body because it doesn’t matter anyway, or to be ascetic, denying their bodies completely, again because they are viewed as unimportant.

This we can relate to.

How many people have tried to diet? We seem to work better within the realms of “all” or “none”… we find “some” more challenging. We can cut out sweets entirely (asceticism) in an attempt to control the impulses of body. Or we can binge, eating the entire bag of Oreos satisfying every need of the body freely (indulgence). Both options that gnosticism leaves us with are wrong. Neither is a healthy, balanced view of the body or creation.


So, you’re probably wondering where Ratatouille fits into this? How much can we learn about the threat of gnosticism from something as innocent as a Pixar film about a cooking rat? A lot, that’s what!

Remy, the main character of Ratatouille, is different from his peers.  His fellow rats are only concerned about caloric intake, binging on whatever garbage they find handy. They care only about quantity, not quality of their food. They represent the licentious gnostics– indulging until they are sick.

Remy is different. He savors food. Sees flavors. Wants to craft and create something worth eating. In this way, he is more human than the other rats. He is actually reflecting the heart of God through his culinary creations.

God is not a gnostic. He who created the body knows, in contrast to gnosticism, that the body is important and should neither be indulged freely nor neglected. God is a creating God. And creation is messy, but oh so worth it.

There is something God honoring about creating because it mirrors His actions. God created matter. He created nature. He created people. He created relationships. Taking the time to cook a gourmet meal. To savor the smells.  To use words like “dash” and “smidgen.” Construct. Build. Fashion. Establish.

To create is one small way we can honor the Author of creation.

So put away the microwave meals and Ramen noodles. Break out the dusty cookbooks. Choose a new recipe. And fight the lies gnosticism tells us about the unimportance of the body… one meal at a time!

Bon appetit!

 

The Divine Booyah!

Remember the unlikely sister I met recently?

Our conversation continued. This woman was feeling down, beaten up by her complicated medical history and numerous surgeries. She was talking to me, but really encouraging herself with her discussion.

She began slowly, but became increasingly more feisty as she talked. “I just get so depressed about this stuff. I don’t want another surgery. I want to heal and feel like myself again. I’m tired of hospitals and doctors and stitches and pain. I feel like Satan is using this to get me down. I don’t want Satan to have such power over my emotions, or my thoughts. He can’t have his way with me. He doesn’t own me! He has no power! He doesn’t win in the end. He can exhaust himself fighting, but he can’t have me. My soul belongs to the Lord. God wins in the end. He wins! Do you know what I’m talking ’bout?”

She posed the question to me. I cracked a smile and responded, “Yes. God wins. It’s the Divine Booyah!”

She stopped, eyed me carefully and exclaimed, “I knew you had some black in you!”

It made me really happy.

 

 

Image credit: http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/hospital.jpg

Dec 3, 2012 - Devotional    3 Comments

Be Kinder than Necessary

“Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”
T.H. Thompson & John Watson

I came across this quote recently and I’ve been unable to get it out of my head.

I’ve felt its truth in my own life. I sometimes fool myself into thinking that as soon as I can handle this conflict or challenge or battle then life will be easier. I called that “checkpoint living” in a previous post. That kind of thinking is a lie. As soon as one battle is settled, another – often fiercer one – is waiting in the wings to take its place. This side of Heaven, we will struggle. Life will not be perfect. There will be grief.

And the same is true for everyone else.

That’s what I love about the quote. We can all agree that our lives are difficult and filled with both inner turmoil and outer struggles. We can become consumed with our own battles, never realizing the angst in others’ lives. The point of this quote is to get outside of yourself, to overcome your battle by fighting self-centeredness and choosing to love one-another rather than become consumed by your own frays.

A friend of my parents lost her four year old little girl in a car accident several years ago. I remember her relating a story from that time in her life. Just a few short days after her daughter passed away, she attempted to hide her tears and her grief long enough to go to the mall and buy something to wear for the funeral. She drove to the mall, parked, entered the store, shopped, tried on dresses and checked price tags. She went through the motions to fulfill this practical need, but felt robotic, detached, numb as she checked off the details on her to do list. She smiled at the clerk as she made her purchase, all the while screaming on the inside with the pain and freshness of her loss. The clerk smiled back, made small talk, commented on the fabric of her dress and the sale happening next week. The grieving mother was just seconds from losing her cool, collected facade. She could barely handle the idleness of such talk with the raw emotions raging her heart.

As she left the store, a thought struck her. She began to walk through the mall – looking at all the smiling faces and wondered, “Who else is suffering?” How many people were veiling their grief with a protective smile just like she was? How many people had experienced tragedy and were just trying to get through the day? She concluded that she would assume that everyone was mourning, grieving, or hurting somehow and that would influence how she interacted with them.

Yes, it’s true that you have battles. Fight for joy! But don’t stop there! Let’s fight alongside each other with kindness and love. “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”

Nov 27, 2012 - Devotional    No Comments

Staying Carbonated

“My marriage just went flat… like a soda.”

A good friend of mine who was going through a divorce poured out his heart to me over sushi and sake several years ago. He told me how his life had changed since his wife left. How all the details from new checking accounts to new addresses had to be ironed out. Then he said something that has always stuck with me, “My marriage just went flat… like a soda.” One day he woke up and there was no more sparkle, pizazz or fizz.

So how do we stay carbonated?

How to we avoid such a fate in marriages and other long-term relationships? How do we not set patterns in relating to one another that slowly loosen the cap of our sodas letting out all the carbonation? I think this can be a common tale. We get busy and make time for everything, but each other. We’ve seen the relationships that seem more like co-habitation than marriage.

Honestly, that terrifies me. Even though I am not married and no where near being married, I am frightened that I could lose my carbonation. I am determined to have good relationships. I want to find ways to be pumping carbon dioxide back into my relational soda! Because, let’s be honest, life is hard. The cares and worries of life choke out our spontaneity our sense of wonder, our excitement with the everyday. Life consistently drains the carbonation from our relationships and our lives.  We must fight to keep the bubbles.

I don’t know exactly how to stay carbonated, but I know it should be my goal.

How about you – how carbonated do you feel right now?

 

Image from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TlXK6EcyXdc/UBGkkTQERBI/AAAAAAAAPTw/Nk4auuz8pB4/s1600/soda_can.jpg

Nov 22, 2012 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Words! How I Love Thee!

Hi. I’m Kelly and I’m a word-addict.

I love a good word. Something descriptive, whimsical, and multisyllabic. A solid use of persnickety or twitter-pated or kerfuffle or balderdash can make me smile any day!

A friend recently sent me a blog which discussed “25 Handy Words Which Simply Don’t Exist in English.” link here

It had some doozies in it! Some of my favorites were:

“Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.” Here, I’ll even use it in a sentence! “I have to suppress my inner-gigil when I see chubby little infants.”

L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it. As in: “Wait! Come back! I have a snarky comeback now!! (muttered under my breath) L’esprit de l’escalier… the everyday comedian’s downfall!”

And, of course, my favorite was: “Desenrascanco (Portuguese): “to disentangle” yourself out of a bad situation (That is to MacGyver it).” In true MacGyver style, “I never have a plan. I find that the more elaborate my plan, the more can go wrong. I just aim to desenrasanco from whatever kerfuffle I find myself.” (double points for that sentence!)

These words got me thinking about other words that we have trouble translating into English. Words from scripture like agape, chesed, ezer, or paraclete. We can get part of the idea in our English translations of true love, merciful compassion, strong warrior, and steadfast advocate respectively We add adjectives to strengthen the meanings of the above words, but something is left wanting any time we translate from one language to another. This is why it is so crucial to support Bible translation efforts so that people can read the Word in their heart languages.

These thoughts got me thinking even more about translation and how to make ideas transcend literacy and linguistics. When God called Moses to His service via the burning bush in Exodus 3, Moses asks, “’If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel,  I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)

My pastor talked one Sunday about the I AM statements in the book of John and how they hearken back to this passage. He discussed in the sermon that everyone would have known when Jesus presented these I AM statements what he was talking about. Everyone would have known. In a world full of languages and translation difficulties, God chose to make his name something that all languages could handle. He used the most common verb in the world, the “to be” verb, and made his name out of that. This fascinates me because such a choice allows for translation into all languages. But there is a sense in which God cannot be identified by any word. He is bigger than our tongues. He chose to call himself something that would be accessible to Moses, the Israelites and people thousands of years later.

I AM.

He is.

Are there any words more beautiful?

Nov 21, 2012 - Devotional, My Story    No Comments

Welcome to my Crazy

I’ve decided that I’m crazy.
Maybe I stepped over the line whilst doing a jig in my kitchen waiting for the microwave to ding. Or maybe it was when I burst into laughter in the middle of a quiet room because I remembered something hilarious from the day before. Or maybe it was the practical joke that I planned for months and managed to keep secret. (See photo for evidence!)

 

But sometimes, my crazy isn’t fun or lighthearted. Like the time I tried to have a conversation, but it   consisted of mostly harrumphs and sighs because I was too frustrated and distracted to actually find words. My crazy is sometimes insidious. It’s the internal voice that harangues me whispering half-truths that I can be more.

So I’m declaring it. I’m crazy.

Maybe you can relate.

One of my professors in seminary said, “If stress doesn’t get out frontwards, it gets out sideways.” I know this first hand. Sometimes I feel resilient to disappointments in life. I can handle traffic or missed appointments or hard conversations. But sometimes I react more strongly than is warranted for the situation. That’s when I feel the most crazy.

But I’ve also come up with a treatment plan.

Writing.

That’s how I let my crazy get out. In controlled little bursts so as not to overwhelm anyone!

I process life best by writing and thinking through what happened, how I reacted, what could be different. Hence this blog. Because the title is true, I really do think on paper! This blog will contain stories, anecdotes, and general life processing. It will be real thoughts on virtual paper!

Thanks for being a part of my crazy.

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