Friday, February 28, 2014

FMF: Choose


I'm standing in the closet, figuring out what to wear.  It's 46 degrees now, but by 4pm, it will be pushing upwards into the 70s.

Thank goodness.  I'm done with winter.

I've chosen to layer so I'm not changing my clothes again later today, standing in the same closet, making the same, but different decision.

And then I pick up my Jesus Calling devotional and God is speaking to me again about what I'm wearing, though He's not talking about the tangible clothes that hug my body, but the ones that grace my spirit.

I look at myself in that intangible reflection, I see the articles I weighed in my head, the ones I know I should leave alone, left on the hanger, maybe even given to Goodwill.  No, not even there.  They need to go in the trash.

See, these are the articles I've chosen  many times before to hide behind.  I seek protection in them to help me ward off criticism. I've cowered behind them because I have not been confident in myself, in who God made me to be, in God Himself.

I guess you could say even though I don't  pull them out and put them on as often as I used to, just knowing they are there in my closet brings me a source of comfort.

False comfort.

Because what  more comfort do I need than to be clothed in His righteousness?  What else do I need but the garment of salvation?  Why would I need another source of protection when I have the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit.

It's time to find the garbage bag.  Good thing it's trash day.
"I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!

    For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
    and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
    or a bride with her jewels."
Isaiah 61:10 
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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
photo credit: lemuelinchrist via photopin cc (text added by Jen)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Time for a Little FUN!: Ladies' Night Out

My IRL Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood started over 2 1/2 years ago in the Parish Hall of my church.  It was (and still is) a place of deep sharing, tears, warmth, and encouragement.  Although our sharing takes place in small groups and we have weekly prayer request time, my girls were hungering for something more...

FUN!

I kept hearing how much these women wanted to get to know each other beyond the Bible study questions.  They wanted to know more about the day to day lives, witness the little personality quirks,  just hang out to know and be known.  Plus, I had women attend retreats who couldn't come to Bible study, so creating FUN! social events was a great way to keep everyone involved and interacting.  So I started letting go of some of the so-seriousness of Jen and entertained the thought of just having fun.

But I'm a newbie to the FUN! thing, so I had to enlist some help from my super-fun friend, Sara.  She found a swanky bowling alley (who knew swanky and bowling could be used in the same sentence) where we could eat YUMMY non-bowling alley-type food (again, who knew bowling alley food could be good?).

And we talked about anything and everything. Laughed, restarted stories interrupted by "Your turn!" and felt all giddy when we actually threw a ball that hit pins.

Just plain, pure FUN!

As I reflect back on that night, I think how far I've come with this group of girls.  My heart swells knowing how we all want to be together, in study, in prayer, in a bowling alley.  God has created a group of His girls that not only enjoy Him, but enjoy each other.  I see so clearly the value of being involved in a group that can serve in many forms and fashions...

as a place of rest.
a place of safety.
a place of authenticity.
a place of study.
a place of accountability.
a place of letting down your hair and letting go.

and now...
a place of FUN!

God doesn't just dwell in the serious.  He dwells everywhere, perhaps especially in the FUN!...
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares.  And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play." Zechariah 8:4-5
We don't need canes yet, so you'll find us playing... 

What are some things you do just for FUN! with the ladies in your life?

Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstory, Michell for DYWW,  Women to Women Sharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursdayand Laura for Quitting Thursday.

Monday, February 24, 2014

When Costco feels small and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post! We are raising scholarship funds for the 3rd Annual SDG Retreat: More than Conquerors.
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There are some people I wish to avoid.

Especially like those who have hurt me.  I have this issue of smarting for a long time. I hold tight to my anger and I wear it as armor, head to toe.  You will never get in again, I resolve.

Eventually, I realize it takes too much energy to hold onto these overwhelming emotions and I need my hands for other things.  And so like a scarf unraveling itself on a motorcycle ride, I let my anger go with the wind.

But even though my anger has unwound itself from my body, I'm in no hurry, I think, to seek reconciliation or even a nice, superficial conversation.

But then, she walks into Costco.

There's only one way out of the giant store and I have to go straight past her to get there.  And I have a load of groceries in my cart, so it's not a situation I can skirt with grace.  I'm too big to hide behind the cart and the cart is too big to hide.  I cannot out maneuver, so I start to grab my old armor out of the proverbial closet, prepared to give a small wave and even smaller smile.

And then God speaks.  You wouldn't be trying to avoid the situation, would you?

I can only laugh at that moment because I remember the prayer I prayed that morning, asking God if avoidance is the theme I see glaring me in the face in the fourth chapter of John.

Be careful what you ask for, my dear friend.  He likes to answer our questions, especially when the answers propel us to wholeness.

She hasn't seen me yet, but I'm fortified now with a different shield.  It's one made out of love and I genuinely begin to feel compassion for her as I grip my new armor.  I begin to desire some sort of reconciliation, even a smoothing over of things.  There is no room for a harbored resentment or smoldering bitterness in the body of Christ.  

I find my step quickening, a true smile gracing my face, and a heart that longs to show this woman that I still love her.  And I think to myself, Who are you, Jen, and what has happened to you?

Ah, it must be the work of the Holy Spirit.

We have a five minute or so conversation, long enough to where I have to shift my cart over a few times to make room for the masses exiting Costco.  We check in with each other, about our activities, our families, and we leave each other with a hug.

I grab my cart and even though I feel it's heftiness as I make my way out the door, my heart is light.  I feel free.

I didn't avoid her and because of this small act of obedience, I reaped a harvest of reconciliation, of true forgiveness.  A chain of bondage broke in Costco that day, a chain that had taken hold in the body of Christ, a chain that was holding me back and I hadn't even noticed.  That's what's hard about chains.  Sometimes you don't even realize your tied to them.

I think about the woman Jesus meets at the well, how much time and energy she must spend avoiding the stares and the gossip behind her back.  She had five husbands and was living with another man, so she drew her water from a well outside of town.  But that's not the first evidence of the theme of avoidance we see in this chapter.  It's actually Jesus who avoids first, not her, mind you, but the Pharisees.  He's hightailing it out of Judah, going to Galilee, because His hour has not yet come.  His avoidance was out of obedience.

But Jesus, even though He avoided His outcasters, He doesn't avoid the outcasts.

He doesn't take the normal route to Galilee.  Normally, when the Jews travelled north to south, they took the long way so to avoid the area of Samaria.  The two cultures -- the Jewish and Samaritan --  had been smarting with anger and resentment for over 450 years.  The Jews were disgusted by their intermarrying and impure religion, didn't let them lift a finger to help rebuild the temple.  It was worth it to them to add miles to their travel to avoid contact with these lost ten tribes.

But not Jesus.  He's avoiding the Pharisees for the time being, but He's seeking the lost. And He finds her with her broken heart, drawing water from a well, but dying of spiritual thirst.  She's hurting, she needs healing from shame, she needs a friend, but she's not up to trusting anyone, not even Jesus, just yet.

She uses the same avoidance techniques I'm sure we've all used at one time or another.  Throughout her conversation with Jesus, she uses her cultural norms as a false sense of self-protection (4:9), hoping they pave the way for a hasty exit.  She brings up comparisons, hoping Jesus might feel rejected or "not good enough" to possibly do what He says He will do (4:12).  And she wields easily the weapons of sarcasm (4:15) and misdirection so to divert attention away from the pain she feels when Jesus reveals He knows so much about her (4:20).

But Jesus continues to chip away at these walls of self-protection she wears.  He renders her weapons useless.  He makes Himself unavoidable by the generosity of His love and His acceptance.  And the pain and shame is so deep inside her, the need to be taken in and taken care of an insurmountable desire she can no longer repress, she simply cannot help but avoid His gaze any longer.

Somehow, on the outskirts of town, she has finally found Home.

He tells her:
"But the time is coming -- indeed it's hear now -- when true worshipers will worship him in spirit and in truth.  The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way." (vs. 23)
Jesus had told her the truth about herself and even with all He knew, with all she'd done, He did not avoid her, abandon her, criticize her.

He loved her, told her the Father had been looking for her, and declared Himself her Savior (4:26).

The next thing we know, she's off, running back to the town that had rejected her, that heaped shame upon her, that quite possibly avoided her at all costs.  She's free of her burdens, she's been delivered from her distress, she's been captivated by the One who could not be deceived by avoidance techniques.

She has encountered Love and she desires to share it with those who have not loved her.

And in droves, these people came to see Jesus.  They came to encounter love.  The fields were ripe for harvest and this one woman who was willing to avoid herself and her need for a Savior no longer, was the God-ordained passage way to relationship with Jesus.

Remember, Jesus is passionate about providing a passageway to Him.

When we choose not to deflect, when we choose not to avoid situations He calls us into, when we choose to trade our armor of self-protection in for the very armor of God, we choose to reap a harvest, a harvest sometimes we didn't know existed or that we didn't know we needed.  Perhaps sometimes, we even get the honor of being a passageway to Jesus, used by the very hand of God to usher another into His presence.

May we as the Body of Christ choose not avoidance.  May we choose not to wield the weapons of self-protection and deflection.  Instead, may we choose to love despite cultural norms, despite our own shame and fear, despite our anger and hurt.

Instead, may we reap the harvest and nourish ourselves with the joy that awaits us.

Let's Get Real:  Are you avoiding something/someone in your life?  If you could imagine the harvest you or someone else might reap by NOT avoiding this any longer, what  might that look like?

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Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Kimberly Chase, for bidding and winning! Today, we have this lovely offering from Dawn.  It's not a scarf, but an ear/neck warmer.  Looks to me like something perfect for a not-so-great hair day!
Isn't she pretty!
A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know everyone's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a woven item and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around us, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this item, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Next Monday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
photo credit: SFB579 :) via photopin cc

Friday, February 21, 2014

FMF: Small

It's the small things he uses.

A thousand little pin-pricks instead of one big knife wound to the heart.

It's the details that pile up in my mind.  It's the snapshots of all the different areas of my life that are untidy and I haven't even begun to talk about my house.

It's the small droplets of doubt, the constant self-questioning...does what I do even matter?  It is the leaky faucet I always think of fixed until the next time I go in.  Still leaking.  Doubt upon doubt, drop by drop, until I am awashed in a sea of unbelief and self-criticism.

It's the small things he uses.
The not so distant memory of the bad morning with the kids, the sarcastic comment I made to my husband, the unreturned email, the canceling of a coffee date because I just could not do one more thing.

And yet, I have weapons at my disposal that he has made me believe are not worth putting on every day.  That's child's play, he whispers.

But I'm bringing out the big guns today.  No more pin-pricks.  No more droplets of doubt.  Nothing can penetrate my shield of faith. I'm armed with the sword of the spirit.  My feet fitted with peace.

I won't even feel those small things today.
"Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere." -- Ephesians 6: 13-18

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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
 Faucet: photo credit: Seththerabbit via photopin cc
Water droplet: photo credit: rackhs via photopin cc

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Time for a Little FUN!: Just Keep Singin' it, Sister

Welcome to FUN!
Here on Wednesdays, you will find a full assortment of ideas for FUN! you, too, can incorporate in your life.  Between guest posts and my own musings, we're raising a glass to enjoying life.  I hope you'll come along for the ride.  Oh, and if you have a FUN! guest post you'd like to submit, please contact me via email or in the comment section.

Here's Lyli on FUN!


When I was 16, I wanted to be Pat Benatar.  I would turn the boom box radio up to full throttle, grab my round hair brush as a microphone, and belt out the words to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” like a pro.  There in the theater that was my bedroom, I pretended to be Rizzo in Grease (I’m not a blond, so I played the supporting role).  I spent hours on the phone chatting with my best friend about boys and movies and the mall.  Somehow, I managed to do all of this and still get my homework done. 


Now, I am 46.  I strive to be a Susie Homemaker.  I turn on my floor cleaning vacuum, grab a magic eraser, and scrub the grout on my hands and knees.  Here in the 24-hour restaurant that is my kitchen, I aspire to be Martha Stewart (Even though I am not a blond and as poised as she is, I am still the head chef).  I spend hours on the phone arguing with the insurance company about co-payments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses.  

Sadly, I never quite manage to get everything on my to-do list done.


Time is my enemy, I think.   Life was more fun when I was 16. 

Somewhere in the space between 16 and today, I misplaced my hair brush microphone.  I think I got distracted by the dust bunnies in my living room. 

Why is that we grow up and think that “fun” is only for children and irresponsible people?   I need to reclaim my microphone.  I might not stand on my bed and belt out Pat Benatar, but I must move fun on to my weekly priority list. 

Solomon argues that God wants us to have fun and enjoy life in Ecclesiastes 9: 

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto, Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!

Did you hear that?  Today is a gift.   Do I want to spend it whining about the dust bunnies when I can take a long, leisurely drive with my husband instead? 

This week, turn on the oldies station and make up the words that you don’t remember.  Dance with your kids in the kitchen.  Pick up the phone and call an old friend.  Go get a manicure.   Put fun on your to-do list. 


Grab your hair brush microphone and keep singing, sister. 


About Lyli:  Lyli Dunbar enjoys road trips with her husband, connecting with women through Bible study, and reading way too many books.  She writes about life lessons and faith at 3dlessons4life.com.   A disciple, wife, educator, and mentor, Lyli is just a girl working to keep the faith day by day. 


photo credit: megaankate via photopin cc

Monday, February 17, 2014

I am not enough and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post!
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(Note: Today's post is long, but I invite you to stick with it. Not because of my words, but because I think the picture John paints through his words is simply breath-taking.)

John had 70 years to think about how he would arrange the stories in his gospel.  I had 7 days to try to get inside his head to figure out why he had chosen such placement.

I couldn't shake this nagging feeling that somehow he purposefully took the stories of the Wedding at Cana, the Clearing of the Temple*, and Jesus' face-to-face conversation with Nicodemus and wove them together to create a tapestry that we can sear into our brains.

And it's a lesson that needs to be forever imprinted because it's one that is so easily forgotten:

I am not enough.  

(Lest you think I'm being self-deprecating, keep reading.)  

Last week, we uncovered spiritual truths Jesus reveals at the Wedding at Cana.  We learn that failure creates the space in which Jesus can make miracles.  We see Him taking our sins and pouring them back out as abundant grape-colored grace.  It is because of our incessant inability to uphold and live out perfectly the Law, He provides more of this grace than we could ever imagine.

This week, we look at Jesus as He stands in the Temple, turning over tables, driving out animals with a hastily-made whip, and speaking with exclamation (Jesus yelled!).  He's clearly upset.  His Father's house has turned into a place of extortion.  He's angry because the Temple has been defiled, but there's another reason:

All this marketplace business has kept people from heart-filled worship.  And Jesus is all about removing barriers that keep us from His Father.  We see this ultimately played out on the cross, but we get a glimpse of it here, too.  As Ann Voskamp said at the IF: Gathering, "God is not about a business.  He is about a body."

The priests and the Saducees were responsible for all these Temple transactions.  They were in the business of taking people's offerings (the annual tax and sacrifices required by the Jews) and evaluating them to make sure they were good enough to be brought into the Temple as an offering to God.  But instead of changing money (foreign currency was considered unclean) for a nominal fee (a practice allowed by the Talmud), they bilked the often-poor pilgrim out of an amount equal to a full day of wages. Inspectors of sacrificial animals would often reject the pilgrim's offering, and in turn, offer to sell them an acceptable one from the Temple for 18 times more than what they were actually worth.  (It reminds me of how hotels and concert venues can charge $6 for a bottle of water, but I digress.)

And all these transactions are happening in the Court of the Gentiles.  So any non-Jew seeking to pray, seeking to find God, seeking a place for communion with Him, was confronted with God as a business.  His place of worship was taken away.  He was denied access.

I think about the Jews who came to the Temple, those who couldn't afford the "acceptable offerings" and how they must have felt denied, too.  And if they truly believed that their relationship with God was based on animal sacrifices and they had one deemed not worthy, how would they atone? How would they enter into worship again?  And even if they were able to afford it, could they really enter into a relationship with God on a heart level when their religion made it about a business?  I probably would have been consumed with how I would feed my family for the next week, not about connecting with God.

Jesus is consumed by passion and zeal for His Father's house, but it plain to see He is also consumed by His passion and zeal for us.  His Father's house was built for access to worship.  And people were coming to this house and their offerings were rejected.  They were told that what they brought was not enough.  What they had didn't measure up to the worldly standards of perfection.  And God had already said He was done with the sacrifices.  What He wanted was our hearts.  But if we are told that what we have tangibly is not good enough, how much harder is it to believe that what is inside of us is?  Would God really want that?

Jesus tells us, yes, through His passionate actions.  We have no need to measure our offerings against the ideals of the world.  We must only offer ourselves, whatever that may be.  It is here Jesus declares He is the Son of God. It is here He sets in motion the journey that will end in His death.  It is here where He becomes the perfect offering so that our perfection is not longer required for us to have access to God.
Flash to the next scene: We have the man who has it all by the Jewish world's standards. Nicodemus is not only a Pharisee, but he's a member of the Sanhedrin, one of only 70 people.  He spent his whole life following the thousands of incredibly detailed rules the scribes had meted out so to give tangible ways to understand and practice the Law.

Apparently, he was really good at it.  A hot shot.  One that shouldn't need anything else.  He had money.  He had fame.  He had worldly acclamation.

But something must have been missing in his heart because in the dead of night, he goes to find Jesus.  The man who thought he had everything goes to the Man who is everything and I wonder if he has his own measuring experience.  I wonder if in the very presence of Jesus, he realizes that all he has couldn't possibly compare with what He offers.  How could he not?

Nicodemus learns of rebirth, eternal life, and God's love.  John doesn't tell us Nicodemus made any decision that night, but we find him later bringing pounds of perfumed ointment to be poured out on Jesus' body after His death on the cross.  Something must have stuck.  And perhaps something must have come unstuck, too.  The idea of continual judgement and evaluation from the world?  From God?  Perhaps the words of Jesus on that dark night during their cloaked conversation took root:
"God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3:17
Perhaps what is measurable ceases to be worthless and that which is immeasurable is priceless.  

Perhaps Jesus is this passageway to God, not the perfect coins, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect law-abiding.  Perhaps because He is immeasurable, there is no need to measure anymore.
I am not enough.  What I bring is not enough.  But that is okay.   If God designed me to be enough, I wouldn't need Him in the first place.

And Jesus is passionate about providing a passageway to Him. 

And that is enough.

I just need to be reminded.

Let's get real: What offerings do you bring (to God, your family, the world) do you find yourself constantly evaluating and measuring?  Whose voices are you listening to?  What does God say?

*There is some debate about whether this story occurs out of historical sequence.  The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) all put the clearing of the Temple towards the end of Jesus' ministry.  Some scholars suggest there possibly could have been two clearings. Other scholars contend there was just one and John cares not so much about creating a historical account, but rather a clear picture of Jesus as the Messiah.
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Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Nancy Piper, for bidding and winning! This week's offering is from MaryLeigh, who writes at Blue Cotten Memory:
This scarf just screams FUN! to me.  All the colors, the whimsical-ness of the knit.  The rainbow makes me remember...God does keep His promises.  Ahhh, I might be in love!  Does it do the same for you?  If so...bid away!

A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know everyone's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a scarf and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around our shoulders, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this scarf, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Next Monday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, February 14, 2014

FMF: Garden

The prompt is garden and all I can think of is fruit.

And I blame Jesus Calling by Sarah Young because of her words on February 10th:
"Many, many things people do in My Name have no value in My Kingdom. To avoid doing meaningless words, stay in continual communication with Me."
Meaningless = no fruit.

And I think back to a Priscilla Shirer study I did where she talked about cutting off perfectly good fruit just for the sake of growing that one prized tomato.
Some yumminess from my garden last year
And sometimes, I wonder what that one prized tomato is in my life.

Because the truth is, my life feels really full. And I'm trying to discern if that is because I'm tending to the meaningless things, if I'm trying to cultivate things that are not useful for Him.

I'm not sure of the answer, but it's worth the time of reflection.  Because if anything, I've learned through this short time of FUN! that He desires for me to find enjoyment, JOY, in life.  He wants me to have time to revel in Him and the gifts He has given me.

And He doesn't want me to have feel like I'm earning His love.

Because His love has existed before I was born, it existed in the Garden of so long ago.  It was free then and it is free now. 

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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Time for a Little FUN!: Glenda

Here's the thing: I'm not an expert on FUN! I'm trying to figure it out as I go, but as we all know, sometimes, we have to get a little help from our friends.  (Insert Sesame Street jingle here.)

Here's the lovely Glenda and her take on what's FUN!

I think FUN is different for each of us and we can learn a lot from each other. I gravitate toward fun in three areas.
COZY FUN

     *reading a good book
     *watching Downton Abbey
     *enjoying a perfect cup of tea or coffee
     *going on a long walk

CREATIVE FUN

     *trying a new recipe for our family dinner
     *rearranging my furniture
     *cleaning our house (really ... this is fun for me)
     *preparing a talk for our Saturday morning Bible 
       study
     *blogging

PEOPLE FUN

     *coffee with Dave (or other friends)
     *long chats with my daughters
     *texting hilarious messages with my sister, Sue
     *a day with the adorable Devin and Cole (borrow 
       kids whenever you need extra fun)
     *hanging out with the women I mentor

Cozy fun, creative fun and people fun, fuel me and give me energy.

Sometimes, I wish I was one of those people that love high energy adventuresome fun. But my first response to something new (ie. not on the above FUN list), always wants to be "no".
But 36 years married to my husband, Dave, has helped me say "yes" to many things that turned out to be FUN.
     *for over 20 summers our family went on mission 
       trips to Europe ... living in a tent.
     *mini-trips to New Orleans, New York and Philly
     *our 3 day walking doughnut tour in Chicago     
     *(and many more)

So ... here is my advice on FUN ~

     *Be intentional to have plenty of your natural style
      of fun in your life ... every day.

     *Be intentional to hang out with someone whose  
       FUN meter is different than yours. You will be 
       happy you did.

Now ... here is my message to you, Jen Ferguson. Please move to Chicago and be my neighbor. Because I want to learn that running can be FUN. I am pretty sure I could learn that from you.
See, doesn't this look fun, ladies?  This is me (Jen) and my running partner, Kelli at the San Antonio Half-Marathon.  Come on, Glenda, you know you want to!

How do you have fun?



Monday, February 10, 2014

Grape-colored Grace and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a new friend.  If you decide to link up, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post!
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I've read the first part of the second chapter of John many times.  This is what I used to think:  There was this wedding at Cana.  Jesus was there.  They ran out of wine, so He miraculous made some more out of some water.  He was also slightly annoyed by His mother.  Oh, and His wine was really good.

End of story.

Oh, but there is so much more.  I never picked up on the symbolism tucked in the story, but the more I learn about John and his intentions for writing this gospel in this way, the more I realize there is a deeper story he wants me to grasp.  And maybe Jesus wants me to know He didn't speak to His mom in a rude voice.  (Because so often the English language just does not do the Greek intention justice.)

There are so many aspects to this story I had never thought twice about:

  1. The timing and location of the miracle.
  2. Jesus chose a wedding at which to start revealing more about His power.
  3. The fact that Jesus was at a family wedding.
  4. What was going through Mary's head when she asked Jesus for help?  Did she expect a miracle?  Could she even begin to grasp the heartache she would feel when she realized the fullness of when His hour would come?
  5. To run out of wine was to fail desperately in the realm of hospitality, which was no bueno in that culture.  In fact there is a Rabbinic saying that highlights the importance of wine quiet nicely: "Without wine there is no joy."  (Just to be clear, they aren't advocating drunkenness.)
(I created a whole sheet that helped my Bible study ladies dig into scriptural significance and insight into why the above aspects of this chapter are important. If you would like this reference sheet, just click here.)

But what hits me most about this story now that I have researched more is this:
There were 6 stone jars that each held between 20 and 30 gallons of water.  This water was used for the ceremonial hand washing required by their Jewish tradition
Did you know the number 6 in Jewish tradition symbolizes imperfection?

And Jesus turns that water in those imperfect, legalism-holding vessels into wine.  He took all the impurity, all the sin, all the dirt and grime that cloaks our souls stored in these stone jars and used this, yes this, to  make the best tasting wine.  Wine that is a symbol of the blood He shed for us when He died to free us from this imperfect law.

He didn't make just a little bit of it.  He made somewhere around 180 gallons of it.  Enough to get a whole village schnockered for a week.

And it was good.  The best gift.  One that made the Master of Ceremonies pause as this grape-colored grace touched his lips.

"You have saved the best until now."

God saved His best gift for last.  Jesus.  And through this miracle, we see Him taking the law in all its imperfection and pouring out something new.

Free, abundant grace.

Unearned.
Undeserved.
Miraculous.

And to think...this failure, the running out of wine, was necessary.  Our failure is necessary.  If we do not fail, we do not need Jesus.  Our failure gives Him something to transform.  And transform He does...into something far better than we could ever have imagined.

Let's get real: What failures might you have been holding onto, ones that make you feel guilt and shame?  And what if you saw those failures as things that were necessary so that Jesus might give you the best gift, Himself?

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Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Jody Collins, for bidding and winning!  Today, we have this lovely offering from Andrea: (Which I find amazing...instead of eggplant-colored, perhaps we can call it grape-colored.  And so here you have tangible, grape-colored grace around your neck! I do not think this is a coincidence!)
Some details: honeycomb knit infinity scarf, measures approximately 27 inches long, approximately 10 inches wide. Colour: eggplant. 100% acrylic.

A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know everyone's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a scarf and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around our shoulders, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this scarf, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Next Monday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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ANNOUNCEMENTS! ANNOUNCEMENTS!  
Are you a KNITTER or CROCHETER?  We need you to help with our 3rd Annual SDG Retreat Fundraiser.  Click here to get the details about Woven with Love.









Want to give a SOLDIER some love and encouragement? Do you know a soldier that could use a few extra prayers?  Fellow SDG sister, Beth, has created a webpage specifically dedicated to this here.  Please be sure to stop by, leave a request or a prayer, and bless a soldier today!




photo credit: mbgrigby via photopin cc (words added by Jen)