Going back to the Greener side

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So for several years (yeah, again the hippie in me coming out)… I have been trying to live out a life more in line with my beliefs.  If God has given us our lives and everything in it, we need, nah, we are almost required (at least for me as a response for God gracious goodness) to be good stewards of our time, our bodies, our minds, our stuff.  And if that makes me hippie, well hand me over my Birkenstocks and my flowers.

Anyways– a few of friends have several suggestions and I noticed writing down the next steps will help me move onto better stewardship as a Christian. So here it goes::

1) First things first: all worship for God requires prayer. So I pray that God will guide me in this search, in shedding old skin and old habits and push me towards living as one of His stewards.  Without God in the mix, none of this makes sense.  And may all the glory and goodness go to Him alone. amen

2)  Personal Habits::
   A) more energy, more life— I really need to star exercising more. And I don’t mean locking myself in a gym 24/7.  I mean walking outside, walking my dogs, walking other dogs that need it.  Get back to riding my bike where I can and realizing that the purchase of my slightly used Honda pilot was for transporting the animals and people I love, not for taking solitary trips to no where for useless galavanting around.
   B) share, share share!— I have always considered myself overly privileged and therefore want to always be aware there is always something to give.  I have struggled but are trying extremely hard to live up to tithing commitment, giving what I can where.  Yes I run giving across the board (after all before school I was volunteering for a rescue group) and I want this aspect to grow.

3) lifestyle changes
Here is the difficult part.  I have grown in a community that lives solely many products not only whose ethical and social decisions are horrendous but create products that are unhealthy as well.  Though I will review and modify this list due to life events… I would love to start making things from home.  I already have 4 citrus trees and planted 4 more fruits trees and am going to try diligently to figure a way to have a vegetable garden with 2 50-70lbs dogs roaming the backyard all day… (Highly considering building a green house.).  Here some items I’m working on changing:

—Deodorant – saw someone’s recipe, going to try. I have had tremendous problems with allergies and skin and know that natural, homemade skin products are beneficial as well as practical.
—skin products: now, because again of health concerns I already she’ll out $$$ for products never tested on animals and safe. But again my friends already living elements of this lifestyle make their own lotion and lip balm.  I was VERY intrigued about making this. Plus it’s my nature to make things and as I like to say it get “crafty.”
–Food: I want to be making my own bread, peanut butter (or butter of choice less some nuts I have cross allergies to) and veggies.  Now, this will take some time as I also don’t believe in wasting the items I have already purchased.  So I will use/eat what I have (or give to those who need as I have some friends in need of food more than myself) and move towards making my own.

—Stuff… I tried doing this a few years ago after attending a summer Bible study… Thanks Dale & Stacy …. Where I worked at buying products by companies in line with my faith.  I have the resources, I also have several friends toner ideas from…  So now I feel more prepared and going to work on this element harder. And for kicks and because my future husband and I love science…. Making my own ice cream 🙂

So this is only a start.   Of course there will be times I slip, and it will take getting used to several of these changes. But I believe God is bigger…and with Him, He can hopefully help me to become a better steward and a better follower of Christ.

Shalom, my friends, shalom

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Moving Along in Life

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This is something that has constantly been on my mind and probably the best place to “discuss” it would be here, on a blog.  So here it goes.

I grew up in Orange County all my life. life in suburbia america, had a family that wasn’t involved in divorce or drugs nor did I have parents that were mean or abusive. I thought my life was pretty well off.  And even though my mom got serious cancer and my dad died when I was young, I still thought my life was good.  Ha! ….then I went to college.

I had the best 4 years of my life in school. I went to University of Evansville, in Indiana, got to enjoy what it is like leaving your parents behind (mind you never having changed schools other than for grade) and live on my own.  The I met people in college who changed my worldview.  Who taught me you don’t have to succumb to the standardized living made picture perfect by modern white America, that I can actually incorporate Christian living (which, btw, does not look like ANYTHING on TV) as my norm and that it was ok to stand up against authority and stand for what you believe in.

Then I moved back home.  And besides trying to recover emotionally and spiritually from a broken engagement, I also had to recover moving back to suburbia America, back to the life I was trying to separate myself from.  These were the hardest times of my life so far.  I struggled with my mother, struggled internally, had the hardest time finding a church home, checking out everything (including Rock Harbor, something called “Faith Defenders” and even going back to my old childhood church (which I still support & love…continue reading.) Despite things that the outside world views as not important or significant, I made it through…in addition to finding a WONDERFUL church home in Messiah Lutheran with those alike and not like me. So here it what I have come down to….

Faith is important.  And how you practice your faith is important to.  And I strongly believe that you should honor whatever you claim to practice and know (meaning understanding and realize the implications of) what it means to follow Christ (or whatever faith if you want to go that far.)  I have also learned not to judge by appearance, location or status.  And I don’t mean I judged those less fortunate than myself.  As some who has constantly been referred to as “hippie” i mean not judging those more well off than yourself.  Or those who may live more accurately to what you what to believe. Envy is still a sin as jealously is.

When I returned to Orange County, I constantly badgered those who were in a better financial, economical, social and even spiritual standing than myself.  I criticized their opinions and deflated their happiness just to make sure they understood money and success wasn’t everything.  But then I realized I was causing just as much hurt as the rich man caused to the poor man.  Those are people too–people who may have just as large a heart as the poor man, maybe give away half their resources, or go every year when possible serving those who need food, shelter or even water.

My pastor (who i think is quoting someone, not sure) always says “I can’t do all the good the world needs but the world needs all the good I can do.” It means—you do what you can. You stay true to God, to yourself, to your family and your faith community and you live out what you preach and try to be real within that.  And as Christians, we are called NOT to judge.  That God alone reserves this right.  And therefore we ARE called to love God, love others (something our church is big on, i do not attend for this sole reason AND it was more of an after the fact statement when our church realized this is what they want as a motto…)

So I just want to remember people not to judge a book by any cover–to not judge people of where they stand.  To love people, which means to understand and come & walk along side them, in whatever place they may be in their life, and for a Christian, to hopefully show how we are all called to walk along with Christ.

Guilt & Service… the Struggle

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Today I attend church (not a surprise, just stating a fact)… and after attending and sharing some time with someone about the sermon, I decided I would gently blog on a topic that is hard for anyone, but I think especially pastors and those “serving” in the church proper… the call to service.

Today’s gospel reading was from Luke 10:25ff… aka the Good Samaritan.  Its a common story, very powerful and dramatic and where I think Jesus provides an excellent view of how we are to live as followers in the world.  Just to recap (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:25ff&version=TNIV) —  its where one of the expert Law jews was trying to catch Jesus & asked him about how to get eternal life.  And the expert eggs Jesus on about asking who is your neighbor.  And then Jesus points to do likewise as the Samaritan took care of the one in need.

Now… biblical speaking–it is clear there is a call to serve.  And I do believe that as Christians we are all called to service.  But it is extremely hard to call others to serve with you without pressing upon their guilt.  We had this problem in shepherd rescue… a request for more to volunteer frequently made me feel like I wasn’t doing even though i was doing what I could.

So how does one teach/preach/call service?? on top of that stewardship (asking for money– which in these days is a lot hard….) I am glad our pastor pointed out this morning it is doing what you can… doing what good you can do because the world needs everyone doing good, not one person trying to do it all.  But it still can one feel guilty if you think you are not doing enough.  My fiancé stressed the important part—remember that your service should come from the Word to Love God, Love One Another.  I think that is the key to emphasis to serve.

The continuing effort to write….

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Something interesting happened today.  I went to church (that isn’t the interesting part.)  And i was intently listening to the sermon today because they were in Isaiah 55 for the OT verse because my paper for Prophets is dealing with Isaiah 40.  And in the midst of the sermon I noticed something.  Another theme of the Bible… then the idea of the blog/book came to me.

Whenever someone in the Bible questions the thoughts or plans of God/life, God responds in a very consistent way.  He talks about how He is the Creator of the world, how we, as creation, cannot even begin to fathom His thoughts or ideas but that there is no need to worry—only to Trust, Have Faith in Him.  Here are some examples…

Job (look at God’s response when Job finally cracks)
Isaiah 40:27-31 & 55:8-11
 or even when God reveals Himself.  He states ” I will be who I will be” meaning that God will determine His character, not humans or manmade concepts.  There are countless examples of God explaining Himself as the Creator in the Bible.

And you want to know what a Creator does? (just in case God throughout history saving & redeeming His people isn’t enough…) look at Genesis.  God takes chaos, takes nothing not only creates the world, but creates everything living thing including humans.  In fact, humans became special to God. (Genesis 1 & 2)

So when you think about it …. its kind of neat.  God, the Creator wants to be with His Beloved Creation.  And the Bible is the documentation to show how God has done this.  It may or may not be historically accurate, but they are the complete stories and tales we have to understand how God works.  It could (meaning this does not apply to all biblical tells) be like fables: stories with a moral teaching.

anyways… I just thought this was an interesting thought… along with the idea that God is demonstrated as a warrior.  I’m glad that God knows what He’s doing because I sure couldn’t handle everything He works with/handles.

(p.s. if anyone steals my book idea above… i want credit :-P)

Interesting Facts from the Grad World

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Good morning everyone! (so much for weekly updates…but at least its more frequent than before)

Last night I began a class on the Prophetic Books of the Hebrew Bible. Well, actually, the first lecture was concerning how to understand interpreting the Bible.  It mostly consisted of us reviewing how you can see the Bible historically, as literature and theological.  It was interesting and lively as a lecture and a discussion.

In the midst of the lecture we came across an interesting topic that I thought would be perfect for another blog entry.  Especially since its still technically January and I missed Epiphany.  My professor (Dr. Tremper Longman) mentioned that another biblical scholar Robert H. Gundry has written a commentary on Matthew where the story of the wise isn’t a historical Gospel / tale as many people have interpreted, but a mid rash.  This is significant I think (and makes a lot more sense.) Let me explain.

A midrash is a Jewish tradition where characters in the Bible and their tales are expanded on to further explanation a theological point or argue a certain teaching or perspective. The most well-known is the book The Red Tent however there are several more out there on Sarah, figures like Jacob & David.  I think Mr. Gundry has a point.  Ironically, the wise men story is only found within one Gospel (Matthew) and it is an unusual story consider what elements are standard within the Christmas tale. However, thinking back throughout the Biblical narrative, the added story of the wise men as a Midrash pointing to the involvement of the Gentiles into the Jewish story makes perfect sense.  Look at Ruth… the tale of strangers coming into town.

Of course I would like to expand on this further…but class is about to start ;- )

EMMANUEL – Christmas 2012

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Good afternoon/evening my friends!

So, just as promised, here I am blogging twice in one week! aghast! But I was really motivated this time to talk about something I noticed was a constant theme this year during the Christmas season.  Not only was it a theme to be reminded of during the hardships of the month of December worldwide but also I went to TWO separate Christmas eve services where this topic was referenced in the sermon… and, well, there’s a christmas carol “O Come, O Come…”….

EMMANUEL
The word “Immanuel” comes from a combination of a few Hebrew words.   Simple words really.  But they have an enormous impact.  “Imm” is a participle and cane having meanings of “with” or “among.” The second portion “anu” refers to a 1st person plural of “us” or “our.” And the final part “el” is actually a translation for “lord, master” but in the couple times it appears in the biblical text, refers to the LORD or God himself. According to the BDB manual for Hebrew words it means “with us is God” and symbolizes the presence of God to deliver his people.  Isaiah 7:14 use it and the Gospels point to this as the description of Jesus the Messiah…Immanuel, God with us. In fact, Matthew quotes the Isaiah text to point to Jesus’ birth…
After understanding the meaning of the word–it is easy to see why this is important to the Christmas story.  It is one of the names of Jesus (next to the term “Messiah”) that steams from the history of the Old Testament that predicts a coming deliverer or savior that will actually mean God has come down to His people.  It is a reflection of God amongst the Israelites in the wilderness, in the tabernacle, living in the Holy of Holies.  Ironically, this is the connection that John makes in his Prologue when he is talking about the WORD and dwelt among us.  It is the same meaning in Greek for the Hebrew of tabernacling.  
Connecting it to modern events : bad things have happened around the world this Christmas season.  Newtown, CT, China, Philippines, ongoing war in the middle east… And people always want to ask “Where is God.” And though I feel personally like my response would not necessarily help someone going through a tragedy, I always want to point out this theme, this word… that God is with us.  It’s not a question of where is He, because He is already there…the question is much deeper… more like why did this happen and how am I to move on… but blaming someone or trying to avoid the question cane sometimes be easier. 
So in conclusion– I think we should all think of Christmas as the Immanuel Season…the time of year we are reminded that God came to be with us, to live among us and to guide us through the life He not only experienced beside us but that He also has full control and authority over.  
–Shalom in Christ!–

CHRISTMAS IS A NEW BEGINNING…

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Once again, blog delayed.  In order to proper blog– must keep up to the daily thing.

So, I figured since the Christian’s year starts just before christmas… what better time to restart the blogging! And as I write this, I am watching the ever christmas favorite “Muppet Christmas Carol.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Muppet_Christmas_Carol )  And the reason I prefer this version of the time-honored Dickens’ story is 1) The Music, 2) the Muppets and 3) the Message.   Here are the reasons why….

1) Music
       The music for MCC is unique.  For once a Christmas movie doesn’t take the traditional songs and bash them or take the department store songs and play them over and over.  The songs I believe are written for the movie, involve both the storyline and the characters (which is part of the reason I watch this version.)  It reminds me of Jim Henson’s funeral…the Muppets (including Big Bird and Elmo) were part of the service. Here’s a link http://youtu.be/KSE1Mtnnm4Y 

2) The Muppets
      Unlike most muppets movies, this is one that uses the muppet characters as characters in the Dickens’ story.  In fact, Gonzo is Dickens with commentary from Rizzo the Rat.  Kermit is Bob Cratchet, Fozzy as one of Scrooge’s employers.  Working with the humans (which, btw Michael Caine makes the best Scrooge, especially after you think of him as Batman’s butler and so forth…)  I think as a kid using the muppets made something familiar understandable and enjoyable.  Something we probably need to remember as a life lesson somewhere down the line.

and the most important….

3) The Message
    Now–the Christmas Carol message of giving and selflessness is standard.  You expect the ghosts, you expect the change of Scrooge.  It’s part of the tale.  HOWEVER… most christmas carol stories are afraid to play this out.  Afraid to even describe it.  But with MCC, Dickens (aka the Great Gonzo)  is narrating the story… so there is no adjustment from the book (minus creative interpretation.) MCC also incorporates the traditional muppets message of peace and giving.  Hence the ending song “the Love we Found…” It points to the importance of what Christmas leads to: the gift that came, the selflessness act of God coming as a child in Jesus.   Something unique to christmas stories.  Yay for Muppet Christmas Carol…

Yay for Jesus!

So remember the true meaning of Christmas…. and enjoy your christmas traditions that bring you there…