Christianity

February follies

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Sunday begins a new month-February. A month of jammed holidays-including the candy inducing and card exploding Valentine’s Day, sometimes Chinese New Year, President’s Day and (occasionally) a leap year.  However, the season of lent typically begins this month-with Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday leading through the Palm Sunday,  the first “last” Supper, Good Friday & Saturday and finally with Amazing Easter!

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February for me starts with some new items on the agenda to go along with lent.  I have decided to dedicate my lenten time to a Truine God by structuring things into three main ideas.  I will be working on my over well-being (which equates to weight loss, feeling whole both spiritually and mentally as well as general overall “goodness” if it can be explained that way.) Here is how its going to look on paper:

1) Weight Loss–work on losing those 10-15 lbs by Easter. Actually, this will go with the original idea of Lent and “giving up” something for Lent. I am contemplating giving up the bad stuff–the highly processed sugar, soda, sugary juice, stuff like that. But i have two weeks to define this. I have also considering see what it is like to go Gluten-Free or Vegetarian (no vegan, sorry-I’m worried about its affects on my medication.) I know several of my friends who are on strict diets and for some reason, acknowledging that they have a dietary restrictions is where I feel I can walk with them for a bit. A few years ago (2013) I decided to go Kosher mostly because of a discussion I had with a messianic Jewish friend. It was not easy. Shawn and I traveled to Walt Disney World and he had reservations at the Seafood Restaurant “The Coral Reef.” We also ate at a fancy French restaurant in Epcot (the little one up the stairs…the expensive one.) Both of these places had a lot of shellfish-something definitely NOT Kosher-and I struggled with picking something that still sounded appetizing yet was appropriate. It gave me new appreciation for that diet. And it helped me eat better. So that’s step one.

I will also be tying in “doing something for others.” A fairly new but definitely appropriate Lenten practice. This may sound silly-but Scout and I started dog training. Yep-you can teach an old dog new tricks. Scout is 5 years old, learning that yipping and jumping in circles is not acceptable behavior and hopefully getting some lessons in manors. This helps everyone, right? (If you have been to my house you may say yes.) I’m also trying to figure out where to get back involved with rescues. And that circles around back to health and walking. I also want to give a little more, pray a little harder, and loves my friends a little deeper. ;-). I also want to be able to stand against wrong doing, love justice and yet know what Gods patience and timing looks like.

2) The next idea is more along the lines personal development. To work on yourself. An idea that Lent is supposed to be a time of self-reflection, spiritually speaking. I want to work in daily readings, studies, something. I have talked about this before, talked about doing it. But suddenly I have an urge to do this. It’s something I would love to practice with any children if we are so blessed to receive any.

The second item is thinking about my career and my life. I love working for Auto Club, but many people know I have a degree in Theology and while it can relate to the world of customer service and insurance, both are not my dual passion. I believe more so that God is calling me somewhere and yet calling me to be the best at whatever job I am in-which he has made clear is currently claims adjusting. Hence why I work hard in insurance. But every time I look at my books, think of my love for theology-i get depressed and go right into the rut I felt before attending seminary. If some of you don’t know–I struggled for close to 2 years on deciding if I should go to seminary and when I should go back. I missed everything about being theological. So my personal goal is to get started on looking at related jobs to this field and what it takes to get there. Thanks to my choir director at church I got a lot of encouragement to start looking and I realize that every position I wanted to apply for requires a Ph.D. (deep sigh). But I will leave that for another blog.

3) the last item is staying connected and devoted. I want to make it to church more often (I live 45 minutes from church so it’s actually a serious commitment.) I wanted to be a perfect attendee but I’m trying one week at a time. Also it’s about attending and prioritizing the right things.

So-its written down.
I am writing parts of this during church but the pastor just mentioned something that I think definitely goes with this whole blog

Jesus is Lord, and i AM all in! I am yours!
He will be your bucket and bring the rope He will give you life!

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Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross by Michael J. Gorman

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In continuation of good books from seminary, I thought I would bring up one of my favorite authors. I’ve read a couple of his books for new testament and along with the professors who taught the classes (Thank you Dr. Kirk and Dr. Hill)), I learned a lot about Paul’s narrative and how to enjoy the Bible past the Gospel of John.  So here is an interesting read:

click book for amazon link

Cruciformity. Now-this is actually a term that Michael J. Gorman uses frequently in at least two of the books I have read that talk about Paul’s Narrative of the Cross and how Jesus’ life, crucifixion, death and resurrection are all wrapped up into this idea of the cross.  Michael Gorman excels are using Paul’s trilogy of “faith, hope and love” as a starting point to explain Paul’s narrative throughout his letters. And it is through this explanation that Gorman takes the reader through different perspectives of the cross–through the Word, its power, love and strength.

Overall–a beautiful book. Though I highly recommend reading his Paul-Apostle to the Crucified Lord book to get an idea of Gorman’s opinions about Paul in full before reading about how he thinks Paul talks about the cross.  Gorman also has a tendency to make several absolute statements that while fit into nice word packages, may not always apply so generally and loosely. Nevertheless–excellent book and highly recommended.

Faith full Circle

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As another years concludes, both liturgically and secularly, my personal health journey is beginning to take a turn. Not for the worse (though my health will if I don’t follow this) but for the better.  Diagnoses have been confirmed and now more than ever (as shawn and I want to look towards kids in the future), I want to start losing weight.  I know, same ol’ story. And if I say its different,  you’ll rolls your eyes. But hold fast grasshoppers!

I am developing a way to better my spiritual discipline along with my physical/emotional/mental discipline, I am going to be starting something new. Well–not new, but something different. It allows me to view my health as a whole and approach life in a better way. Here is the idea: following the church calendar with my weight loss…

Now, i don’t mean following every saint, reading what things they fasted from and then practicing those myself. No–God worked through those men and women for different means.  What i means is taking the basics of the liturgical calendar for some structure and apply it to the disciplines of my life that need work.

Why on earth would you do this? — mostly because I love organization and structure.  Life has taught me 1) that these can be good and 2) don’t let these run your life.  Two VERY important lessons to be applied during this change.

What liturgical elements are you going to include: My method is to use the major church holidays.

Here they are:
Advent
Christmas
Marti Gras
Ash Wednesday/Lent
Holy Week (breaking up throughout the week with palm sunday/maude Thursday/good friday and holy saturday
Resurrection Sunday
Pentecost

the first break between Christmas and lent will have some filling in of Jesus’ life and the break between Pentecost and Advent the next year will be filled with epistle understandings.

Goals? This is actually an important part of my structure.  Thinking holistically means working towards a goal in mind, not just reaching a number. So here are my thoughts:
1) to lose 100lbs (yes, that much) over the next year and to keep it off the following year.
2) to have my cholesterol/pre-diabetes/pcos under control to where it doesn’t affect my lifestyle, my loves or my life.
3) to be exercising to the point where, as a friend of mine put it, you are “addicted to it.”
4) to have read through the entire Bible in Greek/Hebrew with assisting translation…and then go through it again… and again… and again…
5) to create a spiritual disciple of prayer, reading and communication with God

I know their small, but they are huge to me. And while they may be high jumps, I know they take small steps and practices to work through it.

So when does all this begin? I have broken up the starting plan into several ways.  The first time, like preparation for the coming of Christ, is preparation time for the health lifestyle.  I don’t wan tho waste, so my goal will be for the next couple weeks (until October 1st) I will be eating/getting rid of the things I do not need. Unfortunately, that may include my cake-baking supplies, because let’s face it, while I love them, they are not good for me and i frankly have not used them. But good news in this process is I can take the time to pray about it and make a decision.

the Second phase will “begin” on November 30th, at which point all foods will be gone. This is the beginning of advent. I am considering an advent calendar of sorts that will encourage healthy eating with messages about the coming Christ-child.

Third Phase–real life application and devotion. This time is typically devoted to following around Christ in the Bible (since its between his birth and death at Easter). This is the time I plan on still translating and exercising. Practice of discipline, of walking a mile in someone’s shoes, has value and this is about a 2-3 month period anyways…then add in Lent after Ash Wednesday which is a glorified of the same thing.

Mardi Gras–this will be a party. One day where I can eat/drink whatever I want. Where i can purposefully let go of translating commitments and spiritual study, despite my longing to always be listening. Truly.

Ash Wednesday & the beginning of Lent: this year I truly want to give up something. Something of value that others deserve more. Both spiritually and physically. Spirit-wise I may share some of my translations with people or double my discipline time. Physically I may give up red meat, or carbs, or something that I should already be sacrificing or something hard to sacrifice yet vitally important.

Holy Week: this gets its own category because every day, from Sunday to Sunday, brings out new meaning to the New Exodus and New Creation about to be formed in the dying of Jesus on the cross. Myabe I will try translating without assistance until I get it or something. Don’t know, but struggle is the key here… struggle with God. I am thinking of fasting too, maybe Good Friday. You must prepare for fasten

Resurrection Sunday–celebrate! whatever point I am at, not matter how much weight or verses I’ve translated, I plan on using this time (and other holidays sometimes) as i brief moment to celebrate and thank God to where he has brought me & where i am going. you need these days. They’re important.

Pentecost: the point of this day was that all were living in the Spirit. That’s where I want to be. whatever that looks like. This is more Spirit-guided portion of the year always 😉

Well, there you have it. My new guide & goals. And its not new year’s. Nope-its just 2015. Let the new earth and new heaven and new creation come together … in more ways than one. 🙂

This also is a good way to follow the Bible–through the Church calendar. I am in search of a liturgical reading of the Bible through 1 year or 2 years that I can follow. I want to start on advent, get prepared over the next 6 weeks as well as complete some items at work that would make room for more efficient study.

If anyone wants to try & follow with me, that would be great! I am willing to consider publishing daily/weekly reminder/tactics for review if enough people think it might be a good idea.

Book of Isaiah Class

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I absolutely love the book of Isaiah. Not only does it have some of the most fun theological language, but also connects the Hebrew Scriptures to the New Testament.  It is quoted the most by the New Testament writers and is one of the longest books in the Bible (longest is Jeremiah, another prophet similar to Isaiah.)

A lesson plan for the book would also be very easy to incorporate into an 8 week or 10 week course, as the book is naturally divided by academic and literary scholars alike into three sections.  One or two weeks review of historical/literary settings and you’re set 🙂 I’m going to stick with a 10 week since our seminary does 10 week classes.

Books:

Unity of Isaiah Commentary


Assignments: each section will have a pseudo-midterm.  Will include historical information with First Isaiah.  Final paper on a verse or group presentation on a verse.

Week 1:  Intro/Historical setting

Introduction to the Book of Isaiah. Mild discussions of authorship, publication and historical setting of the Book. Also describe how interpretation works, maybe review different types of exegetical method (text/course/etc.)

Week 2: First Isaiah 1-35

Week 3: First Isaiah: 36-39 (historical chapters)

Week 4: Second Isaiah 40-55–discussions of Servant song

Week 5: Second Isaiah 40-55, part 2

Week 6: Second Isaiah 40-55, part 3

Week 7: Third Isaiah 56-66

Week 8: Third Isaiah 56-66, part 2

Week 9: Discussion of quoted NT Isaiah and Messianic verses

Week 10: Modern discussions of Isaiah//Final presentations

 

This of course is still a working draft of what would need to be included.  This class would take a lot of planning, research and study. 

Red Moon Rising by Pete Greig & Dave Roberts

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click book to purchase on amazon!

My junior year of college after I returned from a semester in England, the Christian Fellowship group I was a part of went on a 10 day Prayer journey to munich.  As part of the group, it was recommended we read this book about the beginnings of the 24-7 prayer movement.  I can honestly say that his book changed my life–my perception of prayer, how it works and what really builds a community.  In fact, I help operate a 24-7 prayer room for 2 different weeks in a main street storefront.  Anyways,I wanted to express my deepest desire to recommend this book to anyone struggling with a church community.  I know personally, for me, it gave me both an outlet for my frustrations with the institutionalized church and yet help me strength my faith to help me love that same church and work with them even more.

The book begins with the author’s receiving a call from God to help the struggling church in Europe as it is crumbling slowly and losing members daily mostly to misconceptions and lack of life.  Greig and Roberts begin on a long, sometimes joyful sometimes painful road of building up what would eventually become the 24-7 prayer movement.  Today, this movement has merged into forming community church groups called “Boiler Rooms” built around the community prayer rooms.  The story is truly God-filled and amazing to read. I could not put down the book.  There are some moments I questioned the validity of what happened, but if you want to see where they are today, check the 24-7prayer website.

 

Creation Interact

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Though I consider myself a very sociable person with the human side… I talk to my dogs a lot.  In fact, I have theological conversations if they are hanging around when I’m studying or I need an “audience” to practice a sermon.  Yes, I have asked both my dogs if they know Jesus. It gives me a nice laugh (especially their facial expression of “do you really have to ask me that…”)

So this got me thinking.  We as believers need to interact with God’s creation more.  Now I don’t necessarily mean talking to your dogs or fish or plants (even though there are tons of articles and philosophies about talking to plant life.) But I do mean going outside more, taking a moment to be thankful of the Creator that not only has created everything around but also given us as humans the responsibility to take care of it.  Sometimes I think as humans we take advantage of this.  We abuse our creation every day and sometimes don’t even take a second to acknowledge the blessings God has given use through His creation.

And that’s why I have dogs…that’s what my dogs remind me of.  They remind me of God.  They remind me to be thankful (they are rescues) and to be happy even for the smallest things of coming through the front door and being home among family.  To be happy about even the simplest food….and to enjoy EVERY toy!