Tag Archives: cross

Three Days Until Easter:


With Easter so near we can almost taste the chocolate, many of us have gone from weeks of reflection on our relationship with God through Christ to lists of to-dos for special family meals, and to-buys for Easter baskets for our kids.  Those with little girls may be out buying that perfect Easter dress and with little boys maybe getting little dress shirts and ties.  As with other special days of celebration we like to make a fuss.

With our kids a little older now, we don’t really do much with baskets or egg hunts any more.  We aren’t hosting a family event, so the panic clean-up is not under way.  The biggest sign that we are only 3 days away from Easter morning was last night when my husband arrived home with a huge box of bacon.  For years he has helped to organize the sunrise breakfast at our church and, for many of us, bacon plays a central role in the event.  At this point, the decisions about worship have all been made, the anthems planned and as practised as they are going to get.  

It is time to let go and let ourselves be swept away in the story and the emotional roller-coaster of this four-day period.  We will rise from the Passover meal with Christ on Thursday night feeling at the same time so close to him and confused by what he has said will happen.  Afraid that he will be leaving us, worried that we might deny him.  We will be horrified by the treatment he takes and the cries for his crucifixion, we will feel immense guilt as we see him hanging there on the cross, an innocent man.   Our sense of loss and grief will overtake us as we hear the words, “It is finished.”  This will be followed by a lost day in which regular life continues but feels like it shouldn’t.  And then there will be Sunday.

On Sunday morning we will rise to go back into our churches which were last seen in a moment of deep grief and pain, and be lifted up on the amazing wave of the news, “He lives!”  Let yourself feel it all this Easter weekend, and remember it throughout the rest of the year, for this is why we are Christians!

38 Days Until Lent: Sold Down The River


Today I went to the daily lectionary page of pcusa.org for some inspiration.  Today’s Old Testament reading was Genesis 37:25-36, the scene in which Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery ‘down the river Nile’ in Egypt.  This struck me as an odd story on which to focus during Lent.  The Gospel reading, Mark 1:29-45 covered the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, healing of many people who were brought over to her home that evening, and a leper the next morning when he had gone apart from the group to pray.  This continuation of the story of Jesus seemed much more appropriate.

Then I got thinking…

Joseph was very popular with his father and, in the eyes of his brothers, spoiled.  They were all older than he was and all had a right to a place higher in the pecking-order of esteem and inheritance than he should have had.  They were the ones who deserved the attention.  

Imagine now that the role of the older brothers is, in the New Testament, taken by the Scribes and Pharisees of his day.  Jesus, despite all that he had done for people in need, made these people nervous, even jealous.  What did these older brothers do?  They sold Jesus down the river, or up the cross to be more accurate. 

When Joseph was sold, it turned out to be to the benefit of all of Israel.  It had all been part of God’s plan.  Likewise, when Jesus was sent to the cross, through the planning of the Caiaphas and the betrayal by Judas, it was for the benefit of all people.

Day by Day, O Dear Lord, Three Things I Pray


Last night I had occasion to watch the movie Godspell.  The movie came out in 1972 when I was eight, but what I remember are the multiple musical theatre productions of the show which I saw as a teen and young adult.  I was, last night just as when I was a teen, held transfixed as the character of Jesus led his little group of misfits through the parables.  When the partner songs begin at the end of the show with “Long live God” as they carry him away from the cross, being joined with “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,”  from the opening of the show I was  taken to that thin place!  I felt lifted up, I was closer to heaven!

I realize this sounds rather flakey or esoteric, but somehow the combination of the real stories of Jesus, the foolish antics of the disciples as they act them out and misunderstand their meanings, and the music is very affecting!  We are led to praise God and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but not just that.  At the same time as we shout, “Long live God!” we need to be preparing the way for the coming of Jesus!

Slow Down, I Can’t Keep Up!


This morning at church when the minister was finished with the Trinity Sunday children’s story he said he had one more thing he wanted to share.  He told us that one of our little boys in the congregation had let him know, through his mother I believe, that we say The Lord’s Prayer too fast when we repeat it in worship.  He said he can’t keep up.  As the minister said, “Out of the mouths of babes!”

Not only may we be repeating the Lord’s Prayer too quickly, but I think we try to do most everything too quickly.  Several times lately I’ve been at the microwave at work or a checkout waiting for my card to process a charge and noticed how slowly it seemed to be going.  Two minutes in the microwave seems like such a long time now, and it is even worse if whatever we are heating isn’t done when the two minutes are up and we have to, gasp, put it back in for thirty more seconds.

I was at a meeting the other day as an observer and saw this same sort of scenario.  The goal of the meeting seemed to be to figure out the fastest way of getting the business done.  This led, for the most part, to motions being passed without discussion and the delightful result of being able to finish all the business before lunch by tacking on an extra fifteen minutes to the morning session.  This done everyone went their separate ways rather than gathering for a shared picnic lunch as had been attended.  Everyone seemed so pleased to be finished that the idea of fellowship over a meal was cast aside.

What else are we doing this way?  When we listen to our children do we seem to be in a rush for them to finish so that we can do something more important?  Do we ask people how they are but then walk away so quickly that they don’t even get to answer?  Really, what is the big race for?

The children’s story usually concludes with a prayer with the minister saying short phrases for the children to repeat.  Today, however, he led us in The Lord’s Prayer, which had already been done in its usual spot in the service, at a slower pace.  It was slow enough that there was time to reflect after each phrase on the meaning or ramifications of what we had just said.  What a great message.  Let’s relax    our    speed   this   coming   week   and   reflect   more   on    the   meaning   of   that   which   we   say   and   do.

Pentecost 2: You Expect Me To Prophecy?!?


     For those of you over forty-something have you ever listened to a rapper?  To include the younger set , have you travelled to an area where people all spoke a different language or with an accent that was very difficult for you to understand?

 

     If you were immersed in that sort of situation for days on end, then imagine the joy you would feel just hearing someone speaking so that you could understand.   Then, imagine if they were telling you that God had loved you so much that he gave his son’s life to atone for your sins.  Then they told you that through Him you would have eternal life.

     Imagine the feeling that would give you! Imagine the questions it would raise.  Are these guys drunk?  In Acts we see Pentecost play out.  The wind blows, the tongues of flame descend and then people begin to speak in languages they don’t even know.  Peter interprets these things for those who are present.  In order to make sense of this he quotes scripture.

     “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour
out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

     Wait a minute…did Joel say prophesy? Was Peter saying we should prophesy?  I’m all for God pouring out His Spirit on me, but I’m not Isaiah, Jonah, or Ezekiel…how am I supposed to prophesy?

     In his book New Proclamation Matthew L. Skinner says, “Peter’s brand of “prophecy” is …the task of identifying our own circumstances as somehow in line with testimony about God from the past and in line with the promises of what God is yet to do.”  He goes on to explain that the art of prophecy is in truly believing that the Bible is a message to us in our own time.

     We need to be open to a dialogue with the scripture. We need to let the Bible shape and effect all that we see, say and do. We need to stop reading the Bible as if it was just another book of information.

     In a course I took on Reformed Spirituality we looked at the practice of spiritual reading.  In the introduction to this section of her book Soul Feast, Marjorie J. Thompson asks the reader to consider the different way we would approach reading a letter from a dear friend and a newspaper.

     Spiritual reading of the Bible is not going to come from reading to get through a section of text.  It is not about how much you read, or how quickly you read.  Our intention should be, in the words of Thompson, “simply to sink into the words and open ourselves to their meaning in our lives.  How do we go about this?

     There are four phases to spiritual reading.  The first to read in a reflective way, slowly, pausing over words which seem to catch our attention. The second phase is meditation, in other words, when we find those words which really catch our attention, then give some thought to why this seems important to us…what is the connection between this text and our lives?

     The third phase is speaking.  We respond to our reading with our emotion in prayer.  If the reading has highlighted our current struggles we will call out, perhaps in pain, if  it speaks of our joy we will lift our hearts in praise. If you want some excellent examples of this phase, read through some of the Psalms.

     Finally we contemplate. After pouring out in words all that we need to, we sit quietly and give time for God’s response to us.  We rest in God’s presence and listen. These steps may go back and forth as we move through a text but the  process is not complete without all four.

     As you can tell from the steps listed, this is not the kind of
reading we can fit into the 20 minutes between activities and is best not left to the end of the day.   When we make a space available in our day for this kind of reading, the Spirit will lead us in finding the meaning of the text for our lives.

     God sent His Spirit to us for a reason.  The Spirit is a gift to us which comforts us in our pain, helps us when we most need help, exhorts people to be present with God in answering the call to serve others in the world who are in need, advocates for us and provides the link for us to stay in touch with Jesus and through him with God, and, if we let it, reveals the truth in  Jesus.

     When God sends out His Spirit, plants spring to life– the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.

This is the glory of GOD–let it last forever!

Amen

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

New Testament:Acts 2:1-21

Epistle: Romans 8:22-27

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

10 Ways Understanding the Bible is like Solving a Crossword Puzzle


flickr.com/photos/cayce/6286070/

Several years ago my spouse gave me a big book of crossword puzzles for Christmas.  There were 316 puzzles in the book, with solutions provided at the back.  Over time I have worked away at the puzzles, sometimes losing track of the book for months at a time (housekeeping is not my forte).  I found it and have been working on it again since I began my fast at Lent (see Turning it off for Lent http://wp.me/p1hsO8-8T ) Most evenings in the past several months have ended with me curled up in front of the TV with my book on my lap and a pencil in my hand.  The challenge of the puzzles is refreshing and the delight when I manage to complete a puzzle without peeking (cheating) is amazing!

By lovelihood Kim Love

So, what does this have to do with the Bible?

  1. Like Bible reading, crossword puzzles are something we often begin to do early in life when we first begin to read and write.  I’m sure you remember doing them when you were in grade school.

  2. The older you got, and the more education you gained, the harder the puzzles you were able to solve.

  3. Many people wouldn’t have bothered with another crossword once they got out of public school.

  4. Some continue to challenge themselves and work at the NY Times puzzles daily.

  5. They will go better if you do them in a quiet place without too much distraction.

  6. These puzzles can be affirmation of your knowledge and thinking abilities at times and baffling and completely unclear to you at other times.

  7. Every time you revisit a puzzle you see it differently.

  8. It is nice to have someone with you off whom you can bounce ideas.

  9. The remaining questions sometimes stay in your head for days as you puzzle over their meanings.

  10. If you really can’t get something, there is no shame in peeking, or asking someone for help.

By baslow Barry Solow

Last night I filled in the last puzzle in the book. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t completed all the puzzles as many still have holes in them.  Some which I started in pen and then got muddled up have a big X through them.  Every time I get the book out I go through it to see if I can fill in any more of the holes.  It is amazing what a little time and perspective can have on the problems.  There are some which I just don’t know, like the names of certain towns in Great Brittain, and those I will look up and hope to remember for another puzzle at a later time.

By jaybergesen Jay Bergesen

 

Unlike crossword puzzles I expect to continue puzzling out and exploring the Bible for the rest of my life.

Balancing the Books: God’s Gracious Gift


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I was thinking this morning about debt.  When we say the Lord’s Prayer at my church one line is, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  This is not really talking about financial issues, although I suppose it is not excluding those, but about our sins.

 

New rules for credt card companies came in as a response to the financial crisis of a couple of years ago.  Credit card companies are now required to give two new pieces of information on each statement; the date at which your debt will be paid off if you pay minimum payments, and the date if you pay a larger percentage.  This can be a pretty scary thing at which to look, almost scary enough to lead us to start using cash! 

 

What if that same rule were applied to our other debts, those of hurtful words, broken promises, and myriad other sins?  What would that statement have to say?

Payment Information

New Balance Total……………….   40 years of sin

Current Payment Due…………….   1 month of good works

                                                ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­________________________________

Total Minimum Payment Due……1 month of good works

Minimum Payment Due Date…… Next Sunday

 

Minimum Payment Warning: If you make only the

minimum payment each period, you will pay more in

interest and it will take you longer to pay off your balance.

For example:

 

If you make no additional               You will pay off the

charges using this card                    balance shown on this

and each month you pay                  statement in about.

by the due date.

 

Only the minimum payment            100 Years, 6 Months

 I obviously made all that up, but even though it seems extreem, I am pretty sure that the time to pay off our own debts would be a lot longer than 100 years, and let’s face it, we aren’t likely to manage not to run the bill up higher over the years!  The point is, there is no way that we can pay that debt off on our own.  But the good news is that through the grace of God and the loving sacrifice of Jesus, it is already marked

Post 120: Are We Having Fun Yet?


 

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On Tuesday, June 7 I will have been writing this blog for five months.  Today’s post will be #120 and I got to thinking that I must certainly be repeating myself by now.  If this is the case, I heartily apologize.  I don’t go back in my post list very often and I write what comes to mind on any given day. 

 

Despite the fact that my teenage daughter gives me a hard time for doing so, I did a little checking on the stats for curlingupwithGod.  In those five months there have been 9,800 visits to my site, many undoubtedly directed by a search for something which led them to me erroneously.  The Footprints poem seems to be the most common search term which directs people here.  I have no way of knowing whether these people actually stop and read something or just scan quickly for the lyrics and then head on their way.  On my busiest day I had 245 visits which was really exciting!   I have been thrilled to have people write me notes occasionally and with those and my responses I have 77 comments.

 

Every time I write a post I have the option of tagging which may lead people to the post.  I didn’t do much of this at first, but have discovered how important it can be.   WordPress keeps track of the most common tags and makes them available to choose rather than writing them in each time.  I thought the list was pretty interesting.  When I see it, the words I have used the most are actually in a bigger font.

 

Bible blog bully change choices choir Christianity church cross details distractions Easter evangelism Facebook faith fashion forgiveness God help Holy Spirit improvement Jesus justice kindness leadership Lectionary Lent love music prayer preaching problems promise quiet reflection sin song stress students survival teachers The Message//Remix:Solo time Twitter worry

 

Back to the title question, are we having fun yet?  I know that I am enjoying the writing and any associated thinking and reflecting that is associated with that activity.  Some days I will have several images or comments pop into my head which lead to posts and I have to type them in before I lose them.  So far my feedback has been good and I’m assuming that for every person who goes to the trouble of writing a comment there are several who at least smile and nod at some point in their reading and that is great.

 

See you at 250 🙂

“Thank You For The Honor, I Am Humbled”…Check Your Dictionary


Today we are beginning the pet peeve section of my blog.  Well, not really, but today’s topic is certainly one of my pet peeves!  I believe that sometime in the last fifteen years the actual meaning of the word humble has been swallowed up and it has moved over into the false-modesty category.  When you are elected to office, given a special award, or graduate from something you are being honoured.  It is not possible for it to be humbling!

 

 

Don’t believe that people really say this?  On election night in 2011, “What a great night,” Canadian Prime Minister Harper exclaimed as he addressed cheering supporters in Calgary. “And friends, I have to say it: A strong, stable, national, majority Conservative government.  We are grateful, deeply honoured — in fact, humbled — by the decisive endorsement of so many Canadians. We shall be faithful to the trust that you have reposed in us,” (canada.com)

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia’s acceptance speech following his election as new WCC general secretary 28 August 2003 included the following, “I want to say that for me, this is a very humbling affair. I am deeply humbled by this great honour of being elected the general secretary of the World Council of Churches.”

 

 

thefreedictionary.com posts the following definitions

hum·blehttp://img.tfd.com/m/sound.swf (hmbl)

adj. hum·bler, hum·blest

1. Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.
2. Showing deferential or submissive respect: a humble apology.
3. Low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly: a humble cottage.

tr.v. hum·bled, hum·bling, hum·bles

1. To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate.
2. To cause to be meek or modest in spirit.
3. To give a lower condition or station to; abase. See Synonyms at degrade.

 I think the reason some people are using the word humble in their acceptance speeches is that they are made to feel “modest in spirit” by the win or honour.  What they may be feeling is embarrassment or unworthiness which may sound the same, but if they really felt that way would they not then decline the honour?  For many it is a way to insert false-modesty into their speech.  Certainly nobody who spends millions of dollars and every waking minute of months of their time campaigning to win an election should feel that they deserve the job or we are in real trouble!

 

Let’s look at some examples of humbleness.  The word humble can be found 25 times in the NRSV translation of the Bible.  Moses tells Pharaoh (definitely not an humble person) to humble himself and let the Israelites go and then later speaking to those very people whom God saved tells them that they wandered in the desert for fourty years in order to humble them.  (Exo 10:3, Deu 8:2, 16)   We are frequently called upon to humble ourselves before God and over and over again it is noted that God hears the humble and does not forget the humble.  In Proverbs 6:9 it says, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”  Later, in the New Testament when it says that the humble will be lifted up it doesn’t mean that if you act humble you will get earthly attention and wealth, but to be truly lifted up into the presence of God.

 

If none of those examples give a clear picture of true humility, look at Jesus.  God humbled himself to the point of being born as a helpless infant in a lambing shed along with the animals.  He lived a simple life with his parents and an even simpler life as he traveled the countryside during his ministry.  There were no fancy campaign busses (or white steeds), slogans or $100-a-plate fundraising dinners.  He didn’t wear fancy clothing like the members of the Sanhedrin, and on the night of the Last Supper he knelt down and washed his disciples feet like a servant, and refused to let his followers fight to save him from arrest.  In the next several days he allowed himself to be whipped and beaten, hung on a cross with common criminals, and to be defeated by death.  This is humbled.

 

As we go to bed tonight, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit may enable us to be truly humble in our lives, that we might be lifted up by God.

 

The 25 uses of the word humble come from; Exo 10:3,Deu 8:2,Deu 8:16,Jdg 19:24,2 Ch 7:14,2,Ch 34:27,Job 22:29,Psa 9:12, Psa 10:12,Psa 10: 17,Psa 34:2,Psa 69:32,Pro 6:3,Pro 16″19,Pro 29:23,Isa 57:15,Jer 13:18,Mat 18:4,Mat 23:12,2 Co 12:21,Jas 4:6,Jas 4:10,1 Pe 5″5,1 Pe 5:6

Dying to Live: What Do You Need To Let Go?


 

John 12:24-26

24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

These verses come at a turning point in the Gospel according to John.  Up until now Jesus has been waiting for the right time for, “the son of man to be glorified.”  Now it is time.  One might expect to hear plans for an anointing ceremony, a parade, a feast, and ascension to a throne.  With hindsight we know that all these things did happen, only not in the way his followers would have expected. 

 

For those who had been following him from the beginning these must have been exciting words!  But they were quickly followed by something very confusing.  What was all this about dead and buried grain?  Was the discussion of some losing their lives meant to mean there would be a fight when they reached Jerusalem?  This declaration of Jesus was totally baffling!

 

We know that in the coming days Jesus would be anointed with oil, but in preparation for death, not as a king.  He would enter Jerusalem in a parade, share the Passover feast with his disciples and ultimately his earthly “throne” would be the cross.  Following that he would be buried just as the dead wheat so that he might rise up and bear much fruit. 

 

What do you have in your life with which you are not willing to part?  In what area are you not open to growth and change?  I know I’m pretty darn comfortable the way things are.  I love my family and my dog (although less barking would be nice) and I like my house.  I have my own car which is important to me in that it gives me great freedom.  I have a good job at which  I’m fairly good.  I’m not really interested in change.  I have the impulse to learn more and grow in my faith, but not necessarily the guts to take the leap and start a new academic program which might jeopardize my economic comfort level.

 

Eugene Peterson suggests, at the end of the reflection for day 240 (see below), that we, “Try being reckless in our love”: let go just a little bit, with Jesus’ help.”

 

The Message//Remix:Solo is by Eugene H. Peterson published by NavPress and is an excellent devotional resource!