Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Friday, March 29, 2013

When It *Wasn't* Good Friday

It's over. Over. Was I tricked? Taken in? Is this really all there is? Were the priests right? Is this how it ends?

Lately, I've been studying the Easter story as part of my Bible reading in the mornings. Not actually because of the season {slightly ironic, I know}, but because I'm teaching it to our First Friday group next week and I want to make it real. I'm better at points-of-view than generalizations when push comes to shove, so I'm narrating it through Mary Magdalene.

A recent discovery I stumbled across is that, in understanding Bible characters and their surroundings and what God wants me to learn from their situations, it helps me to look at things from their perspective - not so much historically as emotionally. Emotions are pretty neutralized in the Bible but, as I once heard, God gave us imaginations to fill in the blanks from A to B in the Bible stories and the people between those pages aren't very different from us. The way the Bible reads, you can get into the rut of feeling that these humans were somehow special and capable of great things.
The truth is, we're all just as capable of doing the things that men and women like Joseph, David, Esther, Daniel and even the apostles were capable of doing. It wasn't them. It was the grace and power of God.

The same God who works in our lives. 

They were human. They were selfish, intolerant and proud. They turned away from God and then turned back to Him. They made mistakes and didn't trust. They doubted God's promises and gave in to doubt. They didn't make the Bible because of what they did, but because of what God did through them.

Putting the emotions into the story opens up the truths. It makes legends humans and takes you  from distant familiarity to empathetic understanding.

So as I study Mary Magdalene through the scope of the Scripture from Palm Sunday to Easter morning, I realize that {as is my tendency} I took the story as it was given and didn't insert anything personal - any emotion - into it.

Here's what struck me in the context of Good Friday:

I've heard the story since babyhood, and never once have I put myself completely into the shoes of a person who lived in the present of the past. I've always put Mary Magdalene in my shoes and somehow assumed that she would have known what was going to happen next. The truth is, Mary had no idea. When she saw Jesus on that cross, she didn't know He was going to come back to life. I mean, she had heard Jesus speak of it, but quite obviously {gathering this from her questions at the tomb and the shock which accompanied them} she did not understand at all what Jesus was saying when He spoke of His resurrection.
When she left Golgotha, probably with Mary, John and the others, her heart was pretty heavy and her hope gone. I'm guessing that she assumed this was the end. Her teacher was dead. All the excitement, all the hype, all the hope for deliverance ended at the cross on the hill behind her. She didn't anticipate anything miraculous. After all, she was Jewish. She'd seen it before. Jesus had seemed different, seemed genuine, seemed true, but He died, just like the other insurrectionists and would-be deliverers that had come and gone over the years. The priests, mocking her messiah at the foot of the cross, had won. They had been right about Jesus and she had been a blind fool, grasping at a hope that didn't exist.

For us, Good Friday is the beginning of the story. For Mary Magdalene and her companions, it was the end.

We know that in a day the black draping in the church will disappear and the somber music will be put away. We know that on Sunday the hymnals will be turned to pages festooned with hallelujahs and the sanctuary full of springtime's yellows, whites, pinks and purples. The joy of Easter is unmatched. It's special. We know what happened. Satan was defeated. Jesus is stronger. Death is crushed and we are are victors in Christ.

It's an amazing, powerful joy.

And I thought Mary and the others would have gone home filled with the same excitement, expectant of the day their Messiah would return and ready to rejoice in the defeat of the enemy greater than all others.

But they weren't.

Their hope was hanging dead on a cross at Golgotha. They were at the end - and anticipating, expecting, nothing else. Good Friday, in their shoes, was not so good. In the darkness of their grief, they had no idea what they were in for.They were not expecting a resurrection.

Or anything "good".

Until next time,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Review: Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild

5 out of 5
Recommended for any girl 13-15 {probably more along the lines of 15; it contains some rather mature topics} or older who wants to know how to live for God in a world gone wild
Categories: Christian self-help

Completely unrelated to this review is the disturbing fact that the last book I finished this year was in January and I haven't read another since.


Going into this book, I was pretty comfortable in my conviction that most of it wouldn't be too relatable to my life. I am not a girl-gone-wild {to adopt Mary Kassian's pet phrase}. My upbringing was not conducive to that of even becoming a girl-gone-wild and I really have no interest in changing now.

However, despite myself {and my self-righteousness} I was challenged on several levels.

I found the chapter on modesty to be especially eye-opening. To that point in my life, I had always assumed dressing modestly was merely a point of order for a good, Christian girl and {aside from the fact that my father more or less makes me} I generally tend to cover up because I figure it's what God wants me to do.
Subsequently, I never drew the line that Mary Kassian does from Adam and Eve and the fall in the Garden of Eden to my shopping habits. She makes the point that clothing is a sign of God's redemption. In Adam and Eve's shame, He covered them. When we dress immodestly, we flout God's covering and glory in the shame of the fall. We reject His redemption.

Likewise, her discussion of the roles of males and females was also eye-opening. I am often judgmental of women these days for their feminist views, their destruction of the role of a men and rejection of their need for the other half of the relationship God designed, but tend to ignore the fact that it's not just the blatant, high-level acts that are detrimental.
As I read {Chapter 9, I believe} I was made very aware of my own treatment of guys. I'm not a I-am-woman-hear-me-roar type, but in my own small ways I can be very belittling in my mannerisms towards them. I don't like to ask for their help or admit that they can do things I cannot (or am not very good at. For instance, driving a car in reverse.) and I tend to take on a sarcastic persona when I'm with them and then {bear with me here} I complain that there are no "real men" anymore.
'Tis true that they are difficult to find - and that's partly my fault.
Mary Kassian {among other very revealing points, which I can't get into or we'll be here all day} delves into the relationships between males and females and what they once were and are not anymore in a very candid manner. I was quite convicted and recommend reading the book for further details.

Also interesting were her points on body language {how we appeal to men without using words}, the influence we exert on a relationship {whether good and uplifting or bad and detrimental} and our attitudes concerning the roles we've been given by God to fill in the aforementioned relationship.

For any and all other details, Girls Gone Wise {ect.} does a much better job than I am in the explanation process.

'Till next time!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Friday and Saturday I attended the Set Apart women's conference in St. Paul, Minnesota with several friends.
One of the keynotes was a woman I used to go on and on about before other things phased out her message and it sort of joined the clutter in the back of my brain of the ghosts of things I'm saving to "think about later". The later that never seems to come.

At any rate, it was Ann Voskamp. {Here's the link to her website in case anything here makes you interested enough to visit}

She spoke of fear and trust and the key to complete rest in the hands of Christ. I'd read her book One Thousand Gifts and I knew the gist of what she was saying. Somewhere inside I knew them.  As Dom Cobb says in Inception {if I've got any fellow Inception-ers with me :)} "She had locked something away, something deep inside her. The truth that she'd always known but chose to forget". I don't know about anyone else, but I almost shivered {or maybe I did} when I heard it. I'm not a person who tries to find spiritual truths in secular movies, but that line is incredibly true in the aspects of how I, as a Christian, live my life. There are so many truths I've chosen to lock away because they mess with the reality and comfort I want to live in.

Of course, it's not always locking away, though. Sometimes it's just plain forgetting.

After reading One Thousand Gifts I was gung-ho on starting my gratitude journal and totting up my thousand gifts. I was sold out on the idea of eucharisteo and giddy with excitement those first few days as I walked through life, whispering thanks for every rock, tree and jolly bush.

And then the bloom wore off and slowly I forgot to jot down the thanks. My journal sat at my desk, lines blank or half-heartedly filled. Eventually I tore out the pages I had filled, bundled them up into the attic and forgot about them.

Counting gifts just "wasn't for me".

At least, not the way I was counting them.

As I sat in the auditorium on Friday and listened to Ann speak, I felt the familiar conviction that I had lost. Locked away. Chosen to forget.

I needed to start counting gifts again.

One thing she said stuck with me very clearly. Two things actually.

"You can't be thanking God and living in fear at the same time" & "Satan hates the use of a pen. He doesn't want you to pick up a pen and write down the words that respond to The Word" {Note: these are not exact quotes; I was writing like a mad thing and probably messed up a few words}. Writer that I am, I was especially intrigued by the fact that Satan hates the use of my pen and doesn't want me to pick it up and write. Especially writing thanks. He'll do anything to stop me. So writing down thanks is essentially an act of victory over the devil.

Well, I thought to myself, I'm always up for that.

Somewhere in the midst of those quotes I decided once and for all that I was going to use my pen to defeat the enemy.

The thought of another gratitude journal gathering dust on my desk was not attractive {to say the least}. Nor was the concept of scattering pads around the house - and looking for them every time I needed one because someone else in the house had walked off with it. I needed something tailored for me.

Being a rather non-conventional person, I settled on a eucharisteo {Greek: to be grateful, to feel thankful} box.

The idea behind it is solely suited to my tastes. I'm a writer, so I'm constantly jotting down bits and pieces of dialogue, description, observation or whatever it is that comes to my mind that I don't want to forget. I have a padfolio in my purse that I bought especially for writing down these passing thoughts. Do I use it? No. When an idea strikes, I grab for the nearest pen and scrap of paper. {The padfolio is now enlisted for sermon notes} I have post-its and index cards and little scraps of torn-off paper all over the place, scrawled over with the fleeting brainwaves I almost lost.

Thus the eucharisteo box.

When I have a love-gift to thank God for I can grab for the nearest bit of paper {I've planted pads of post-its and pens in convenient locations}, scribble out my thanks and toss it into the box.

This changes the face of the gratitude-journal-One-Thousand-Gifts thing, of course. I'm not keeping track of how many I have {I'm not competitive, so this is no great loss. When I had my gratitude journal it became more of a game than anything else} and I'm not being overly idealistic about it either. I know that it will take a while to become habit, so any slip that goes into the box right now is one thing I'm thanking God for that I probably wouldn't have a week ago. The mere incentive of tossing the paper into the box makes it all the more exciting. I'm a piggy bank kind of girl. I love putting things through slots and watching them fill up. :)

For those of you who use gratitude journals to record your gifts, I stand in awe. You are stronger women than I am.

For those of you who, like me, are finding the journal idea hard to work with, there's always a box!

Until next time {may you be blessed with more gifts than you have ink to record}!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March x 3

My top three, ultra-serious, I-will-accomplish-them-if-they-kill-me, goals for March. As you will probably notice, I'm not pulling any punches. This is do-or-die stuff.

Moving on...


...finish Catching Fire before the movie comes out...

Long term benefit: I will be able to moan when they leave out my favorite part - again. {See picture on left} I should probably find out when it's coming out so that I know what kind of time frame I'm running with...

Short term advantage: I will be able to safely look at Pinterest again without ruining the book - because I don't even know who Finnick is right now.


...get Joseph to Egypt in my novelization of Genesis 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, and 45...

Long term benefit: Ohhkay...I didn't realize how long this was going to be until I looked up all the chapters. Good thing it's only getting to Egypt that I'm concerning myself with this month. Of course, it would be easier if Joseph wasn't dragging his feet on me. I don't blame him for not being excited, but he's getting there this month whether he likes it or not so it might as well be quick and {semi} painless. This is where he's at right now, poor guy.

Pardon the slapdash, un-thoroughly edited state. However, the writing is mine and can't be used without permission. 

Short term advantage: I can move on to the Potiphar segment which ought to prove...interesting. I'm very excited to see how it turns out. I've been reading some odd stories about Potiphar's wife that are apparently in the Koran {I can't confirm this}. I'm not going to incorporate them, but it's so weird for these things to be in a book other than the Bible.
I'm pulling out the motivational penguin for this goal. It doesn't really do anything worthwhile, but it's so stinking cute! :)

...file my taxes for the first time without being audited...

Long term benefit: Knowing how do file them for next year. I feel like a fish in a whole new ocean, if we want to get prosaic. If we want to be pragmatic...I'm lost.

Short term advantage: Three words: (1) peace (2) of (3) mind - at least until next year. :-/

Until next time {may you be motivated by things more persuasive than penguins}!