Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Soul-Tidying


I'm not the world's best housekeeper. This is no secret--I mean, I put it right in my official bio. 😉 Yes, "pretending my house will clean itself" is part of my charming naivete. Ahem. Or at the very least, keeping everything put in its proper place isn't my priority. That goes to educating my kids, writing books, designing covers, feeding the family, exercising, reading...pretty much anything else, LOL. I do keep up with the dishes and laundry. Just not with putting everything away.

Over the weekend, even I had had enough of the clutter, so I spent a few hours reorganizing the utility closet, breaking down boxes that were trash, and clearing off counters. And, as usual, as I did so, I kept coming across things I'd forgotten were there. "Oh, so that's where that was." Or "Why in the world didn't I throw this away yet?"

Even the neatest people probably have little corners or drawers that gather clutter, right? We've all experienced this. And as someone who has experienced it more than, say, my sister (LOL), allow me to explain how it happens:

When something's been there for a while, we cease to see it. It becomes part of the background. Normal. Our eyes adjust to it being there, and it no longer strikes us as wrong, as worth fixing...until eventually, the mess gets too big to be ignored.

When it comes to the empty boxes that pile up in my kitchen, this seriously isn't that big a deal.

But what about when it comes to our souls?

Sin, my friends, works a lot like clutter. It sneaks its way in, and maybe when we see it the first time or two, we think, "Oh, that won't do. I'd better take care of that..." But then we don't. Why? Because it's easier to ignore it. We're busy. Because, frankly, clearing out sin is no fun and usually involves a bit of humility (much like cleaning out my junked-up counters does). It's easier to say we'll take care of it soon. Tomorrow. Sunday. Next week. Sometime when we're not running out the door or overwhelmed by "more pressing" matters.

But then we cease to see it. It becomes part of the background. Normal. Our spiritual eyes adjust to it being there, and it no longer strikes us as wrong, as worth fixing...until eventually, the sin gets too big to be ignored.

And then where are we? Exactly where I am when my house has gotten to that point--in for a long clean-up effort.

Because let me just tell you, it's a whole lot easier to nip jealousy in the bud the first moment it rears its ugly green head than after we've let it fester into resentment and hatred. It's easier to apologize for that nasty thing we said right away than after we've walked away and let it keep on battering the recipient.

It's easier to choose to love and forgive the moment we're hurt than to have to wrestle with it years later.
Hmm...not sure of that one? I wasn't either when the example popped into my head. And I'm not going to say it's humanly easier. But isn't that exactly the example Christ gives us? While He's still hanging on the cross, He's forgiving those who put Him there. What would our lives look like if we forgave those who hurt us while we were still suffering the first throes of consequences?

I try to find little ways to train myself into better housekeeping habits--things like watching something fun while folding laundry, and vacuuming the floors before I sit down on them to do that. Things like certain days being Bathroom Cleaning days. 

But far more important is tidying my soul. What are we doing to make sure we stay clear of the clutter of sin? Are we vacuuming up the filth of this world from our selves, keeping our spirits white as snow?

We know we need to tidy our houses...but let's not forget to tidy our souls with far more care and attention.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Word of the Week - Peach


So, funny story. When we moved from our old house to one on my mother-in-law's property, my daughter was distraught over leaving the beautiful old weeping cherry tree we had at the other house. So her grandmother promised to plant her one here. And so she did...or so she thought, anyway. We waited years for it to grow, and it soon became clear it wasn't a weeping anything. But that was okay.

Then this year, Cherry (why, yes, we name our trees) began to bear fruit. And I gotta tell you, those, ahem, cherries, were the biggest, fuzziest, yellowest cherries we ever did see. ;-) Yeah...so either Nonna got the trees she'd ordered mixed up, or they sent her the wrong one, LOL. Because Cherry is most assuredly a peach tree. And at the moment, I have a giant bowl full of small but lovely peaches on my counter, waiting to be cut up and frozen. So of course--word of the week!

While the English word peach comes straight from the French word pesche of the same meaning, if you trace it back to the Latin, it actually gets interesting. The Latin word actually means "Persian apple." Peach trees originated in China, apparently, but they came to Europe by way of Persia. In fact, in Ancient Greek, the word persikos could mean EITHER Persian or peach! They were that interchangeable! I had no idea. But the Persians must have really loved their peaches if it was the fruit other nations associated so fully with them.

Peach began to be applied to people in the 1700s. First to mean "attractive woman" in the 1750s and then "a good person" around 1900.

And they've been my son's favorite fruit since around 2010, when he first bit into one. ;-) I swear that boy could eat a whole basket of them in a day if we let him... How about you? Are you a peach fan?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . The Revealer of Secrets


“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
21 And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
22 He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.

~Daniel 2:20-22

Daniel--one of the wisest men we ever read about in the Bible. Daniel, who rose from captive slave to ruler of provinces. Daniel, who remained ever faithful to God. Daniel, who served king after king with his knowledge and wisdom and always remembered to point to the Giver of said knowledge and wisdom.

I've always loved this second chapter of Daniel, where Nebuchadnezzar calls all the wise men in to tell him what his dream was and then the interpretation. No one else could do it (duh), but Daniel, upon hearing that the king had ordered all his wise men killed in a fit of rage over their failure, begs for just a little time. He closes himself in his room with his friends and fellow God-followers. And he prays. He prays, and God reveals the secrets. God brings light to the darkness.

It was a literal life-or-death situation--one that affected not only Daniel and company, but hundreds if not thousands of other learned men who had been asked to do the humanly-impossible. It's no surprise, then, that God provided. God saved not only Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael--God saved all the wise men of Babylon through them. God made His might and power known to the king. God proved Himself not only faithful but omniscient and omnipotent in a land known for its value of things of learning.

We're never surprised when God shows up on the grand scale. But if you're like me, sometimes you forget that He shows up just as spectacularly when the secrets that need revealed are small.

Daniel needed God to move in a big, noticeable way that day--just as his friends needed Him to do when they were tossed into the fiery furnace. As Daniel needs later when he's thrown into a den of hungry lions. But let's not forget chapter one, shall we? From the moment they were brought to the palace, these four young men were determined to remain faithful to their God--and from that first moment, God answered by revealing His small secrets to them...which is to say, by filling them with wisdom and knowledge. They could out-think the Babylonian sages. They could out-perform the wise men in their own realm.

Because God gave this to them. God filled them. Their lives weren't yet in danger...and if He hadn't filled them with all knowledge and learning and wisdom, one could argue that they wouldn't have been in positions to need His later intervention. But our God is one who sees far ahead...and into all the crevices.

We don't know yet what Big Deals will be coming later in our lives, do we? We don't know what moments of life-or-death will await us. We don't know if or when we'll be in a position where we need to cry out to Him for our very survival. But we do know this:

Our God doesn't just move on the grand scale--He moves on the small.
Our God doesn't just reveal the big secrets--He reveals the tiny.
Our God doesn't just direct the movement of kings and prophets--He directs the faithful widow.
Our God doesn't just heal the generals--He heals the servants.

My family's in one of those places where our feet are pointing toward new, unknown paths. That's stressful. Not life-or-death. But stressful. And as I contemplate Daniel this week, I'm reminded anew that we all find ourselves in those places, right? We all have been and will be there. But the God who foretold the rise and fall of the greatest kingdoms of the ancient world is the God of this too. If nothing's too great for Him, then nothing's too small either. He's the God of the infinite...in both directions.

More, the God who holds us all in His hand will fill us when we ask. He'll give us what we need to know to take the step He wants us to take. Now, He doesn't usually reveal EVERYTHING, right? When Daniel prayed for revelation about Nebuchadnezzar's dream, God didn't show him that if he revealed this to the king, he'd be given a promotion, but that it would make him enemies so numerous that they'd start plotting ways to kill him and his friends so that, for the rest of his life, he'd be miraculously avoiding other death sentences. That may have been too much even for Daniel!

No, God told him what he needed right then. To save his life. To take the next step. And because he was faithful in that, more followed.

My friends, we don't always have to know what our grand calling is. We just need to be willing to take one step with our hand in His. We just need to trust Him in this mystery, knowing that the rest will follow.

Whatever unknowns keep you up at night, know this: they're not unknown to Him. He is the Revealer of Secrets. And, more importantly, He loves you.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Word of the Week - Stamina


We're all familiar with the word stamina, meaning "strength to resist, endurance." But did you know that it comes from the Latin word for "threads"?

The Latin, in turn, is from the Greek stemon...a thread. Specifically, the thread that the three Fates spun, measured out, and snipped for each human life. If someone had a long life--exhibiting fortitude and endurance and resistance to the bad things that could end said life early--they were thought to have long "threads of life." Much stamina.

And just as a bonus--if you haven't brushed up on your Greek mythology lately, LOL, the three fates are Clotho (the one who spun the threads), Lachesis (the one who measured it out), and Atropos (the one who cuts it).

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Thoughtful About . . . Looking to the Rock


We all know the story of Moses bringing water from the rock. We know it not only because it was another in a long line of miracles, but because it's the one that he did wrong--the one that made God say Moses wouldn't be allowed to enter the promised land. In case it's been a while since you've studied the passage, here it is from Number 20:7-12.


7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

I've read this countless times, but only recently did something new jump out at me. I think I'd always assumed--or perhaps heard taught--that it was because Moses got angry and struck the rock that he was punished. But that's not what it says, right? And we happen to know that Moses has gotten angry before, and the Lord didn't punish him...like when he broke the very tablets God had written on with His own finger. I'd have thought that would have earned a rebuke, but no mention of one is made. So what makes this time different?
When I looked at what God said to them in response here, it was like a light bulb moment for me. First, Moses did not believe Him. God gave specific instructions for what should be done, and what would happen. Moses had every reason to believe that God would be faithful--this was after far bigger miracles had already been done. So what happened? Did Moses doubt that God COULD? That He WOULD?

I'm not sure. But when we look at what Moses said to the people, I think the doubt wasn't in God...but in their worthiness. Moses was so frustrated with the people that his entire speech was not at all about God--it was entirely about THEM.

Which leads to what really struck me. God doesn't just tell Moses he failed to believe. He says "to hallow me in the eyes of the children of Israel."

That, my friends, is the real sin here, I think. That here he was with another beautiful, miraculous moment when God is about to demonstrate His love and power--and what does Moses do? He berates them. He rebukes them. He calls them rebels. And he says WE (as in, he and Aaron) will bring the water from the rock.

Never once does he point the Israelites back to God. Never once does he address the rock, as he's instructed, or even address the Lord. Never once does he direct either his own heart or theirs to their Lord.

But something else struck me here too. God was still faithful.

Moses screwed up--but God still delivered.
The people weren't faithful--but God didn't abandon them.
No one believed--but God still gave a miracle.

There were consequences for Moses's disobedience, unbelief, and failure to point the people to God--but they were consequences for him alone. God still met the need that required the miracle to begin with.

I find that so encouraging. Because let's face it--we all screw up. We all address the problems in our lives instead of trusting Him for the solution. We all fail to have perfect belief in the promises He's made us.

But God still delivers.
God doesn't abandon us.
God will still provide the miracles we need.

Sometimes it certainly feels like we're surrounded by a rebellious, faithless people. But there's a lesson here for us in those times, isn't there?

Sometimes, when God's about to move, we shouldn't be addressing the problem at all. We should be addressing, looking to, focusing on the thing from which the miracle is going to come.

Don't look to the masses, my friends.

Look to the Rock.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Word of the Week - Enigma


Did you know that our word enigma actually comes from the Greek word for "fable"? I hadn't! But apparently so.

Said Greek word is ainos. And since a fable is a tale whose meaning/message has to be puzzled out, ainos let to a verb ainissesthai, which means (go figure) "to puzzle out." Well, the Greek was of course adopted into Latin and changed a bit, to aenigma. Sound familiar? This was a noun, meaning (you guess it!) "a puzzling speech or riddle."

It officially joined English as enimga in the 1530s.

Friday, August 30, 2019

What We've Been Reading - August



Roseanna's Reads

In My Devotions

Mere Christianity 
by C. S. Lewis

As part of my C. S. Lewis kick, I've been reading Mere Christianity every morning along with my Bible. And it's always nice to read something and immediately go, "Oh, so that's why this has become a classic!" which has definitely happened with this one. Lewis really was a brilliant man, and his reflections on what lies at the heart of Christianity--not the details that separate one denomination from another, but rather what separates all Christians in their beliefs from non-Christians--are truly amazing. I can't believe I haven't read this one before and already know I'll read it again. This one ought to be required reading for all of us!

  

For My Bookclub

The King's Mercy
by Lori Benton



I love every book Lori Benton has written, and The King's Mercy is certainly living up to her reputation for depth of character, scope of story, and amazing insight. The story follows a Scotsmen who was taken prisoner during the failed Jacobite rebellion and shipped to America as an indentured servant. Our heroine is the daughter of the plantation that buys his indenture, and she's soon captivated by the towering Scot who's learning to become a blacksmith. I love that Joanna is a woman who serves her family and servants with a full hard, chafing against the cruelties she sees in slavery in a completely believable way. And I think we can all understand Alex's struggle, wanting a freedom that's always out of reach. As always with Lori's books, I recommend this one highly!!

 

For the Edit

Surf Smugglers
by Melody Carlson

I'm really enjoying with Melody Carlson on her Legacy of Sunset Cove Series, which follows Anna McDowell and her daughter Katie through some adventures that result from Oregon's Prohibition laws, which came half a decade before the nation's. Book 3 features a wedding, more focus on the Great War that America that just joined, a new hospital, and of course some smuggling that our intrepid newspaper people have to help put a stop to. Can't wait for the final book in the series!

 

For the Kids

Odd Girl Out (Being Zoe #2)
by Melody Carlson


Melody's Being Zoey series is the perfect read for middle school girls! I adored the first book, Meet the Misfits, all about being who you are and learning how to love your enemies. Book two continues the identity theme, as Zoey begins her middle school career in a new school, where her only friend is out sick for the first week. She makes another new friend, but this one seems bent on tweaking Zoey's appearance, making her ask herself how much she can change and still be true to herself. But what I thought made it a really spot-on story was how technology plays a role in Zoey's struggles and triumphs in this story. At the start, she's the only one without a smartphone. But getting one only ushers in the problems that leave her yet again on the outside looking in. But though there is a message, it doesn't read like it--just like a fabulous story about a sixth-grader. Your middle school girls will love it!

 

Rachel's Reads

Wow! This summer has gotten so crazy busy! I am so thankful for audiobooks. I would not be able to read as many books without them. Here are some of the books I've been reading this month. You can watch for my reviews over on my blog, Bookworm Mama.

Audio

The Lost Girls of Paris
by Pam Jenoff


I've started listening to all the books that are on my TBR that aren't on the docket for review this summer. I'm making pretty good progress too. This is such a heart-wrenching story. Based on the real women who went into France as radio operators during WWII. Oh, my heart. This is Historical Fiction and does NOT have a feel-good happy ending. Well written and fascinating all the same. I highly recommend this one!
PLEASE NOTE: This is a general market book. There is mild language.

 


For Fun/Review

Always
Jody Hedlund


I never get tired of raving about Jody's books. This brand new YA series from her is superb. You can find my full review for this Novella HERE

 

Evermore
by Jody Hedlund


Book one of the Lost Princesses series....Oh.My.Word. Jody Hedlund can weave words so beautifully. The (clean) passion, faith, strong women, adventure, SWOON! Y'all really need to check this series out. Adults and Young Adults alike.

 

With the Kids

Chamber of Secrets (Illustrated)
J.K. Rowling



It took a while, but we finally finished book 1 and have now moved on to Chamber of Secrets. The boys don't have a super long attention span so we just read a couple of pages (the pages are LARGE in this edition) a night. They love the illustrations and are fascinated by the Harry Potter Universe.

 

Happy (End of) Summer!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Throwback Thursday...Redeeming the Days


Original Post Published August 30, 2012


For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

I read this section of Ephesians 5 over a week ago, for the umpteenth time. Before, it was those first verses that always struck me. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light...

Walk as children of light. What a command! I love the constant imagery in the New Testament of light versus darkness, of being the light, reflecting the light, living the light. (Y'all might remember my post on how we should shine...). It's something I've thought about and talked about a lot because, well, it's just so powerful. So deep. So thought-provoking. It's always struck a chord.

But this last time when I read this chapter, it was verses 15 and 16 that slammed me. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Did you catch that? That bit about redeeming the time? I never had. When I pondered redemption before, it was always as something we received, that beautiful gift of Christ. He redeemed us. That means he saved us from death. Literally purchased our life with his own. According to dictionary.com, this is the technical definition of "redeem":
1. to buy or pay off; clear by payment: to redeem a mortgage.
2. to buy back, as after a tax sale or a mortgage foreclosure.
3. to recover (something pledged or mortgaged) by payment or other satisfaction: to redeem a pawned watch.
4. to exchange (bonds, trading stamps, etc.) for money or goods.
5. to convert (paper money) into specie.
Understanding how that applies to our souls is big. Huge. But it's used differently here. Here we are not the redeemed...we are the redeemer.

Yikes. I don't think I ever paused to realize before the sheer responsibility Paul is showing us here. That we are the redemption of our time, of our age. Though surrounded by evil, we are to buy our neighbors more time to learn the Good News. We're to be those ten righteous men in Sodom that would have stayed judgment. We're to be the David for the sake of whom the nation isn't forsaken.

We are to be the light that staves off the darkness.

Of course, it comes back to that. 😉 That is, after all, the instruction on how to redeem the times. On what it looks like when we walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise. But I'll no longer read that as a simple command to do--now I also see the inherent why.

Because we don't shine into the darkness to light our own way. We shine in the darkness to draw others to Him. We shine to show the Truth to those trapped in the dim, dim cave (thank you, Plato). We shine because without us the days would be night, and there would be no reason for God to withhold His judgment from the world.

But the world isn't ready to be destroyed. And it's up to us to buy it a little more time. To pay with ourselves, just as Jesus did for us. To give our lives to this walk, this Way, this fight, so that just one more souls can see the path. Can be bought and forgiven. Can be redeemed.

We can then join the ranks of those redeeming. It's a call to action, that charge. A purpose. One that changes the way I see that dark, evil world around me. Not just as something deserving destruction--but as something that needs to be saved from it.