Browsing "Exegesis"
Aug 19, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis, Health    No Comments

Running and Asceticism

I’ve never experience the runner’s high, endorphine-flooded, goofy-this-feels-like-walking-only-faster-I-could-run-forever state of being. I feel every foot-pouding step, every muscle contraction, every oxygen-drenched breath when I run.

I run for two reasons:

1. The sense of accomplishment is addicting.

2. To tell myself, “no.”

When I completed my first 5K, I was totally pumped. Not by runner’s high endorphines, but by the sense of immense accomplishment. I started off running thirty seconds at a time and sucking air after each interval. I had just run 35 minutes without stopping. I crossed the finish line, fists in the air, thrilled at what I had just accomplished. It felt like I was walking on a cloud for weeks. Any tough problem that I encountered  seemed to soften in comparison to finishing that race. I’m addicted to accomplishment. That’s why I run.

Jingle Jungle 5K

Secondly, I run for self-discipline. It is good for me to endure through trials. It is good for me to push a little bit harder when my legs want to quit. My body wants certain things: sleep, rest, comfort, ease. Although there’s nothing wrong with those desires inherently, there are times the body and the flesh must be told, “No.”

Self-discipline is a constant training process.

There is a reason I understand much more than I did two years ago why Paul consistently talks about running and spirituality in the Bible. He entreats his readers to train, run, not run in vain, to finish the race. One of my favorite passages: Hebrews 12:1-2 reads: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Life is a marathon; we must train to run well. Even Jesus denied his bodily desires and ran the race set before Him until he crossed the finish line. He is still celebrating the completion of His race. And so am I.

Jul 8, 2013 - Exegesis, Quotes    No Comments

Music in the Key of Life

I’m no musician.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love music! But somehow my musical training and prowess stalled when I was first chair in the recorder in fourth grade. I can carry a tune okay, but I don’t enjoy singing in front of others – at least not on my own. But if you put me in a group, surrounded by the voices of the congregation, I sing loudly and I sound phenomenal! Something beautiful happens when I match the pitch of the person next to me. I hear and feel the power of the masses. I am encouraged to breathe deeply and give the tune everything I’ve got.

The power of singing in unison drowns out my vocal imperfections and highlights the notes I get right.

This is the power of community.

And that’s a beautiful thing. And the good news is that the power of community doesn’t stop with just singing ability – it extends to all areas of life. I am more compassionate at my job, a fiercer friend, and more motivated in ministry when encouraged by my community than I ever could be on my own. Others understand where you are and how hard it is to sing at times. They can give you strength to sing even when it’s hard.

Each person’s life has a song. If you think of your life as an opus, full of different movements at different times in life, our songs won’t always sound the same, but they can all be beautiful. It doesn’t matter if your current tune sounds like a playful ditty or a mournful dirge – both can be sung worshipfully. And both are more powerful with others singing alongside you. Each life is an opus which must be crafted in community and fellowship.

orlando grace church 51P2FYRR7XL 211x300 Music in the Key of Life

The movie Mr. Holland’s Opus gives a helpful picture to think about life as a grand piece of music. Mr. Holland, a high school music teacher, who dreamed of fame and fortune, is given a gift upon his retirement. Many of his students over the previous four decades return to play a composition for their beloved teacher and mentor. One of his students, Gertrude Lang, whom Mr. Holland helped decades previously to “play the sunset” honors her mentor with the following speech:

“Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. “

We match each others’ tunes. We sing together. We live in community.

Jesus, help us to sing, no matter the tune, with all our might creating an opus of worship fit for the King!

Jun 14, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    5 Comments

Know Why You “No”

I hate saying no.

I really stink at it. I detest feeling like I’ve let others down. I have to work myself up to near-frenzy to get the words out and I typically feel remorse about it afterward as if I’m single handedly crushing someone’s spirit through my negative reply. I struggle with this. It’s a constant battle for me not to overbook myself, feel totally overtaxed, and want to retreat from the world.

I was complaining to my mom about this feeling and she said something which totally blew my concept of saying “no” out of the water.

She quoted Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Then she went on to exegete the passage saying, “Kelly, God prepared for you good works, specific good works, and you should walk in those working at them mightily. Other works may present opportunity, and they may appear good from the outside, but if they’re not the good works that God prepared for you specifically, then they won’t be good if you say yes.”

Mind blowing truth! What beautiful freedom!

orlando grace church Graduation Kyle 055 225x300 Know Why You No

If I say “no” to everything, I’m being disobedient by failing to walk in the good works God has prepared for me. If I say “yes” to everything, I’m not being a good steward of myself! By stretching myself too thin I’m failing to give enough energy, time, and attention to the specific works which have been chosen for me. But perhaps even more frightening than that is the fact that by saying “yes” to everything I could be inadvertently usurping a work meant for another and thereby denying him of the opportunity to walk in the good works prepared for him!

I’ve found myself praying my own version of the Serenity Prayer.

God grant me the serenity to say “no” to the works not prepared for me.
The courage to say “yes” to the works which are prepared for me.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Amen.

Jun 10, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Lessons from a Fallow Field

“For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow…” Exodus 23:10-11a

Moanings from a Fallow Field:

Dear Heavenly Farmer,

My nutrients have been spent. I’ve fed a family, clothed a village, provided for so many, given freely of all that is in me. I am tired. I am spent. Like Bilbo who could relate with this feeling when he said, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread.”

But I am necessary for their well-being. How can I be expected to abide by your commandment to grow nothing for an entire year? How will they survive without my contributions, aide, expertise, and work? How can I ask for a break, even though I feel my energy growing thin?  I long to rest, to soak up the sun and the rain. I long to feel replenished, but I don’t know how. I’ve worked and provided for so long… it’s who I am. Will I still be valued if I don’t perform?

Somewhere inside of me I know that my nutrients are spent and that if I keep going I will only produce poor fruit, but the drive to produce, to perform, to do is so strong. I’ve done it for six years- I’ve been tilled, sown, and harvested. I’ve faithfully produced year after year. It is a paradigm shift to think of myself as valuable not for what I can do, but for who I am. I am valuable not first and foremost for what I can contribute, but for who I am. I am your field, Father. You call me to work and to rest. Help me to actively rest in this year of fallowness, not just to passively loaf. Help me to seek replenishment. Let my soil be filled to overflowing with nutrients not just for my own health, but so that I can provide again in the future. I am lying fallow in order to produce more fruit.

Learning the Importance of Lying Fallow,
Your Faithful Field


“Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant.” Henri Nouwen

orlando grace church San Felasco and SR 241 009 300x225 Lessons From a Fallow Field

Mar 25, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Before I Give Sleep to my Eyes…

“I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” Psalm 132:4-5

Whoa.

I’ve continued on my trek through the Psalms each month and this one caught my eye in a big way. First of all, I love sleep. I’ve had a cold last week and slept for fifteen hours – consecutively. That’s right, I went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at noon the next day. (You can be jealous.)I am a champion sleeper. If sleeping was an Olympic sport, watch out Michael Phelps, I might just dethrone you in medals earned!

So, I love sleep. I love feeling refreshed. I love starting a new day. I love to “give sleep to my eyes and slumber to my eyelids.”

sleeping-girl

So these verses caught my attention. Finding a place for the Lord is more important than sleep. If I had to guess, since this is a Psalm of Ascent (one Psalm per step was said whilst walking up the stairs to the Temple), the author of this Psalm was talking about finding a literal, earthly dwelling place for the Lord in the Temple. But I think we can apply it to our lives today. That is, “I will not sleep until I have had time to pray, read the Word, or in some way spend time with the Lord.” This application works because the Lord dwells within His Beloved, His new covenant Temple (See I Corinthians 3:16).

So I want to go to bed the right way, having enjoyed my time with Jesus, so that I can readily give sleep to my eyes, and sleep well knowing that He is in control.

Good Night!

 

Feb 22, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    1 Comment

Work vs. Toil

How do you feel about work?

Whether it be your job, vocation, career, chores, duties, or responsibilities, how do you feel about your work?

Do you love it? Is it rewarding? Would you, as my high school guidance counselor always hoped, work even without pay?

Or is it a drudgery? A necessary task to earn money? A prerequisite to leisure time?

I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately. I’m currently writing a Bible study on the Sabbath and I’m coming to understand more and more than without a proper understanding of work, one cannot have a thorough understanding of rest.

So, what’s work?

work in progress

First of all, work was not designed to be evil, a punishment, or a drudgery. To put it another way, there was work before sin entered the world. Read this nugget of truth from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery:

“The first image of human work in the Bible stresses its perfection. Work existed in the time of human innocence in paradise, as the Protestant Reformers never tired of pointing out. The notion of work as part of God’s perfect design for human life is captured in the majestic simplicity of Genesis 2:15, ‘the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it’ (RSV). Here human work is shown to have worth and dignity as a service to God and as something that gives purpose to human life. Work is here a creation ordinance, a God-appointed necessity for human life…[W]ork does not originate with the Fall, as is often and erroneously claimed. The Fall neither cancels God’s command to work not does it introduce work into the world. What is new is work as a curse and as toil–something that must be accomplished against the hostility of the environment.” (Ryken, et al. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, InterVarsity Press Academic, Downers Grove, IL, 1998, p. 966).

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

 

There is a difference between work and toil. Work is good! It is an act of worship. It was designed to be good. But now we live in a marred world. We experience toil. Our work is not fulfilling. It is full of the thorns and thistles of inefficiency and disillusionment. The crops don’t harvest what we’d wish. Those people don’t return my phone calls. The house never stays cleaned. We live in a cycle of toil. But that is not the way it was meant to be.

Therefore, know the difference and seek to work, worshipfully and whole-heartedly, and not to toil, tirelessly and tediously!

Feb 10, 2013 - Exegesis    3 Comments

I like big BUTS and I cannot lie…

Catchy title, eh?

I really do. I love BUTS. Changes in attitude and direction. They’re important. It is helpful to recall where I’ve been and where I’m headed now.

The Bible is full of big BUTS (snicker if you must, then note the one T.) The phrase, “But God…” is one of my all time favorites. It is common throughout scripture, particularly in the Psalms where  authors often spend the first half of the poem rehearsing the terrible predicament in which they find themselves, but then, suddenly, they remember the Lord.

Phrases such as: But the Lord is at work. But God hears my cries. But God is good. But God cares for His Beloved, etc are common in the scriptures. So common that sometimes we overlook them.

Here’s just one example from Psalm 73: “My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Those two words: small in size, large in meaning.

Those words are powerful breaking through the darkness like a beam of light. They shine hope.

Light and trees

 

When I am surrounded by troubles and trials, when my friends have left and my enemies increase, when I think no one hears my cries or sees my grief, I can cry out, “BUT GOD! sees, hears, rescues, strengthens, and loves me!” As my friend often reminds me when I get in a cycle of stress or doubt, “You have a father who loves you and watches out for you.”

It’s true. I like BIG BUTS and I cannot lie!

Feb 8, 2013 - Exegesis    1 Comment

Psalm 4

I’ve been camped out in the Psalms lately.

Feeling the emotions. Soaking in the goodness. Quenching my soul.

In the midst of life’s trials, the Psalms are my salve. They remind me that someone else understands. That someone has been through uncertainty, discomfort, and grief.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about today:

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

David writes this from experience. He’s been through loss, abandonment, and war. He knows the anxiety of feeling unsafe at nearly every turn. He was the smallest of his brothers, underestimated, and under utilized. He was blessed by the Lord, but this fact did not ease his troubles. He was pursued by Saul, forced to hide in caves, running for his life.

He lived perpetually in peril.

And yet he can still pen these words.

There is hope for me!

 

Jan 21, 2013 - Exegesis, My Story    3 Comments

Justice and God

Ever since I attended Passion last year, my ears have pricked up when I hear the word “justice.” I heard about the atrocities in the world in real and all too near ways. Passion focused on the plight of 27 million men, women, and children in the world who are currently in slavery.  There is evil. There is oppression. There is injustice.

Slavery Still Exists

Lately, I’ve been reading through the Psalms. The book of varied emotions and burdened heart cries. Psalm 10:17-18 reads: “O LORD, you hear the desires of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

I love, first of all, the confidence that the author of this Psalm gives in the Lord’s actions. Not “you may,” or “please do this,” or “hopefully.” The writer continually says, “You will…” with no qualms or hesitation. The author can make these unequivocal statements because he knows the Lord’s character. Yes, God is love. All love. The definition of love. And He is also just. The very definition of just!

Second, the phrase “incline your ear.” It’s beautiful. I picture a parent stooping down, leaning in, attentively listening to his child’s cries. Tenderly wiping tears and reassuring his little one that there is hope.

I also see the phrase “do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed.” These are a synecdoche (a part representing something larger), that is, God isn’t only interested in doing justice for the fatherless, but also the motherless, and the poor, and the disabled, and the slave. He is interested in justice for those who are disenfranchised.

Here’s what many miss though — God cares for people in all kinds of oppression. He cares for the 27 million in slavery in the world today, of course our minds jump there easily. But He also cares for the billions in spiritual bondage to sin! These people need a savior from a deeper and deadlier kind of slavery. But herein lies the beauty of the gospel – for God is both JUST and THE JUSTIFIER (Romans 3:26). God must punish sin, there is no excusing it. Therefore, He provided a way for the sin to be punished and the sinner to be saved.

The way is Jesus.

The ultimate end to slavery.

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

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